Poverty in Tanzania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The level of poverty in Tanzania is high. The definition of poverty is a contentious point, which differs from one country to another. There are also varying degrees of poverty. From a broader perspective, poverty is defined as "the state of being extremely poor"[1][2] and is understood by many to mean the lack of basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, healthcare, and primary education.

Unicef argues that, whilst Tanzania has made great efforts in meeting its domestic and international targets in the alleviation of child poverty especially in the areas of education and healthcare, child poverty is still an important issue for the country.[3]

Child poverty[edit]

Slow economic growth is a contributory factor for child poverty in Tanzania.[3] Based on 2012 estimates, more than a third of households "live below the basic needs poverty line" earning less than $1 a day, while 20% of the total population "live below the food poverty line".[3] However, it is the rural communities of Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar who are mostly affected.[3] This disparity in wealth between urban and rural is a key factor for child poverty in the rural areas, with 48% lacking basic needs compared to 10% of their peers in the urban areas.[3]

Rural poverty[edit]

Most of Tanzania's population lives in rural areas with a heavy dependency on rain-fed agriculture (76% of people rely on agriculture for livelihood) and on access to natural resources. Therefore, these people are highly vulnerable to climate changes. Due to the lack of knowledge and infrastructure to develop and implement some kind of agricultural technology, any droughts, floods or temperature shocks can severely damage the living standards of those people and create increases in unemployment, hunger, malnutrition and diseases rates (with special mention to HIV/AIDS), as well as, in really severe cases, mortality rates due to starvation.

Another main factor of rural poverty in Tanzania is the lack of infrastructure to provide energy to a huge part of the population. Which means the electricity sector poses a significant liability to the government.[4]

Leadership systems at the community-level[edit]

The leadership system in Tanzania starts from ten cells level,[5] meaning that, at least in every ten households, there is one democratically elected leader. The hamlet, which is led by democratically elected chairperson, is composed of 100 households and the village which is led by democratically elected chairperson and employed village executive officer is composed of 3 to 4 hamlets with population ranging from 300 to 500 households. The term for all elected leaders lasts for five years. Accountability is the problem in all these leadership levels as it is also pinpointed by Tim Kelsall, Siri Lange, Simeon Mesaki and Max Mmuya (June, 2005).

Good Leadership and governance as prerequisite for development[edit]

Since Tanzania's independence from the British Empire in the early 1960s,[6] Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere said that to develop, Tanzania needed the following: land, people, good leadership, and good politics. Many leaders kept on repeating the same slogan, which was also incorporated into civics books used for school teaching – but in practice, very little is being applied on the ground. Land and people are indeed given resources, and it is also possible to have good politics – but to have a good leadership is a great challenge at all levels,[5] i.e. hamlet, village, division, district, region, and nation. A leader is guided by regulations, principles, policies to allocate and distribute resources accordingly, but most of them are selfish[unbalanced opinion?] and incapable to deliver – as a result there are many complaints from community members in many places against their leaders from grass-roots to the national levels over their irresponsibility on the resource management. Tanzania, like other poor] countries such as Uganda, Burundi and Malawi, has corrupt systems. The service delivery survey suggests that "bribes paid to officials in the police, courts, tax services, and land offices amounted to 62 percent of official public expenditures in these areas". Anwar Shah and Mark Schacter (2004) further mentioned the key corruption drivers, that include: The legitimacy of the state as the guardian of the “public interest” is contested – whereby public office holders focus on serving particular client groups linked to them by ethnic, geographic, or other ties; The rule of law is weakly embedded - public sector corruption thrives where laws apply to some but not to others, and where enforcement of the law is often used as a device for furthering private interests rather than protecting the public interest; Institutions of accountability are ineffective - there are glaring weaknesses in institutions of accountability in highly corrupt countries; The commitment of national leaders to combating corruption is weak - widespread corruption endures in the public sector when national authorities are either unwilling or unable to address it forcefully.[7]

Endowed resources[edit]

About 90% of Tanzania's population dwells in impoverished rural areas.[8] Resources such as arable land, seasonal rainfall, and people are common to all villages; apart from these, many other villages are endowed with resources, such as minerals,[9] natural forests, rivers, lakes, ocean et cetera. As of 2007 65.7% of people live off of $1.25 or less a day.[10]

Stable peace in Tanzania[edit]

Stable peace in the country could be an opportunity to utilize the endowed resources for sustainable development. Tanzania has been enjoying stable peace even before independence due to the fact that there are more than 150 ethnic tribes;[11] Kiswahili as national language that was reinforced during Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere administration; and abolishment of chiefdoms in the country immediately after independence which existed in every tribe. Despite this precious opportunity of stable peace, the economic condition failed to improve as compared to Rwanda, Mozambique, and Angola which have passed through civil wars for many years, but their economies are picking up.

Political system in Tanzania[edit]

From 1967 when Arusha Declaration was launched, Tanzania started following Eastern Block political system. Though Tanzania was Non-Aligned country, it was practicing socialism. The country has been operating under one-party system since 1965 when opposition parties were abolished. Following the perestroika and fall of communism in the USSR during the late 1980s, many countries including Tanzania changed not only economic systems but also political systems. Tanzania resumed use of a multi-party system in 1992 and to date has 20 registered political parties. In the 1990s, Globalization led many African countries, including Tanzania to change their political systems from one-party system to multiparty system. For twenty years since Tanzania changed to multiparty system, very little or no positive changes in the government accountability has been noticed that would have helped to alleviate poverty at household level.

Financial and technical support from international organizations[edit]

Developed countries together with International Financial Institutions have spent billions of US dollars in capacitating the government systems to bring development for many decades, but instead of poverty being decreased, it is increasing. There have been many internationally funded programs aiming at improving national economy since the 1980s, such as National Economic Survival Program (NESP), Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), and Economic Recovery Program (ERP), Economic and Social Action Program (ESAP), Rolling Plan and Forward Budget(RPFB). To-date there is a 25 years Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP 2001 – 2025) parallel with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs – 2000 to 2015); now there is Kilimo Kwanza initiative. Despite the observed initiatives, the economy is still insufficient to provide the impetus for the poverty eradication. The mentality of donor-led project is widespread from national to village level – there are several projects that could be accomplished by using locally available resources, for example potable water wells, small irrigation schemes, health structures, school building et cetera, but they have remained unimplemented awaiting for external donor assistance. The well known economic indicators such as GNP and GDP always show that the economy is growing, but in actual sense they do not show how wealth is distributed to the majority. The Tanzanian economy is recorded to improve every year, but more that 80% of its population mostly living in the rural areas are living below poverty line. During the early 1990s, International Financial Institutions (including International Monetary Fund advised Tanzania to do retrenchment and stop employment even in the key sectors, such as education, health and agriculture as a precondition for financial assistance; as a result the economy paralyzed, and now it has a long walk towards achieving socio-economic improvement.

General elections[edit]

Political crises in many developing countries, including Tanzania, occur immediately after general election. The worst examples of crises occurred in Kenya after the 2008 General Election and Côte d'Ivoire after the 2011 General Election. In Tanzania, after the 2010 General Election there aroused conflicts which fortunately did not turn into crisis. The conflicts occurred between the ruling party and potential opposition parties, following the complaints from opposition and some activists that the Tanzania National Electoral Commission is allegedly favored the ruling political party. Serious conflicts were observed in Zanzibar (which is part of Tanzania), after 1995, 2000, and 2005 general elections in which Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) defeated Civic United Front (CUF). There is a tendency of politicians to spend billions of money (mostly for bribing poor people in exchange for votes) during general election period in order to either get or maintain their leadership positions; but on the other hand, little effort is made towards poverty alleviation initiatives in the communities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary online [1]
  2. ^ Cambridge Dictionary online [2]
  3. ^ a b c d e Unicef, "Childhood Poverty in Tanzania: Deprivations and Disparities in Child Well-Being", pp 3, 10 (Report : September 2009) [3] (Retrieved : 21 June 2012)
  4. ^ "Tanzania. Poverty Report" (PDF). 
  5. ^ a b O'Barr, Jean F. (December 1972). "Cell Leaders in Tanzania". Vol. 15, No. 3. African Studies Review. pp. 437–465. Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  6. ^ British Empire: The Map Room: Africa: Tanganyika
  7. ^ http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2004/12/pdf/shah.pdf
  8. ^ "Rural poverty in the United Republic of Tanzania". IFAD. Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ Tanzania National Website
  10. ^ Poverty headcount ratio at $1.25 a day (PPP) (% of population) | Data | Table
  11. ^ Study Swahili - Learn Swahili in Tanzania


  • Naschold, Felix & Fozzard, Adrian (April 2002). "How, When and Why does Poverty get Budget Priority Poverty Reduction Strategy and Public Expenditure in Tanzania Case Study 3" (PDF). Working Paper 165. Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  • Gassmann, Franziska & Behrendt, Christina (August 2006). "Cash Benefits in Low-Income Countries: Simulating the Effects on Poverty Reduction for Senegal and Tanzania". International Labour Office Discussion Paper No. 15. SSRN 933080Freely accessible.  (Full article: link).
  • Tim Kelsall, Siri Lange, Simeon Mesaki and Max Mmuya (June, 2005): Understanding the Patterns of Accountability in Tanzania.
  • Daniel C. Taylor, Carl E. Taylor, Jesse O. Taylor (2012): Empowerment on an Unstable Planet
  • Anwar Shah and Mark Schacter (2004), Combating Corruption: Look Before You Leap
  • Honest Prosper Ngowi (March, 2009), Economic development and change in Tanzania since independence: The political leadership factor

External links[edit]