This week Gerald Kitabu interviewed Elias Dominic, a teacher of Civics at Jitegemee Secondary School in Dar es Salaam on poverty alleviation among the youth. Excerpts:
QUESTION: What is the role of income and employment strategies in alleviating urban poverty among the youth?
ANSWER: Income generating activities are mostly associated with the level of employment in a particular place. This is not an exception in urban areas. In many cities of world the level of income has been deteriorating and this has always been associated with the declining labour market due to several reasons -- one being the Structural Adjustment Programmes which affected more the less developed countries. However, income and employment strategies can have tremendous results in reducing poverty in urban areas if they are carefully and strategically implemented.
There are several ways of implementing these strategies. It is imperative for the government to help poor people in urban areas to establish small enterprises, which through credits, can open up small businesses. This is only possible if poor people are helped to form groups which in the long run will be able to generate the capital they need for the small enterprises.
It is through coming together that poor people can overcome the barrier of insufficient capital. The role of the government and the urban authorities should be to provide favourable environment for operation of these groups. It is the duty of government to provide specific location for poor peoples’ business; also the government has to provide a legal set up for the formation of these small business enterprises.
In Tanzania the informal sector is recognised and the government gives support through formulation of policies which are favourable for flourishing of poor peoples’ small enterprises. Small and informal business entities in Tanzania get support and backing from NGOs like Poverty Africa, NIGP and organizations like the International Labor Organization (ILO). This can be a very useful strategy to help poor people. It is better to give a man fishing net instead of giving him fish.
Q: Looking at the urban youth, what is their main form of poverty?
A: The main form of poverty in urban areas is the so-called economic poverty which is characterised by income insufficient to survive in an urban environment and is attributed primarily to the capacity of the urban economies to generate sufficient formal employment and subsequent formalisation of the labour market.
Economic poverty leads to many outcomes to the urban dwellers such as inadequate consumption, poor housing facilities to mention just a few. In fact, urban poverty will not decrease unless the urban poor are integrated into the economy. In Latin America, for example, it is estimated that the number of urban poor now broadly exceeds the number of rural poor.
The causes of poverty in urban areas are many. They are complex and sometimes difficult to identify. In certain cities one cause can have a major impact while in another it is a combination of factors.
However, in many countries, like Tanzania, the increasing rural-urban migration has a great effect on the rapid increase of the urban poor. However, poor peoples’ view on causes of poverty is associated with lack of income and assets to attain necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and acceptable levels of health and education.
According to the World Bank development report, 2000/2001, the assets they lack are classified into several groups like human assets, such as the capacity for basic labour, skills, and good health. Natural assets such as land, physical assets such as access to infrastructure, financial assets such as savings and access to credit and finally social assets such as networks of contacts and reciprocal obligations that can be called on in time of need, and political influence over resources.
All these assets are very important for social, economic and political progress of an individual. In developing countries like Tanzania, most of the people in the urban areas are not able or ‘eligible’ to borrow from financial institutions, this is so because of conditions set by financial institutions were by a person is supposed to have a collateral before he/she borrows. This has a serious consequence on the part of the urban dwellers since they cannot raise capital and hence they can not invest, generally this affects the income of urban people and the outcome is the increase in the level of poverty in urban areas.
Q: It is widely known that only few countries in Africa have managed to constantly increase their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with the decline of GDP the rate of poverty also increases tremendously. What is its implication in the war against poverty?
A: The answer is simple, with economic stagnation the creation of jobs becomes only a dream, also governments cannot raise revenue which is desperately needed to provide social services to the majorities in the population. With this kind of situation the rate of poverty will always increase instead of decreasing.
However as it argued by the World Bank, “the level to which economic growth translates in to lower poverty depends on the initial level of inequality in the distribution of income and how that distribution changes over time”.
Related to the above point is the issue of social exclusion, in urban areas social exclusion takes different forms, it may be in form of gender discrimination like in many cities in Africa women have a limited access to means of production.
In cites like Dar -es-Salaam most women can not engage in economic production because either they are denied access to jobs although they have qualifications to do them or they do not have the necessary capital to invest in small enterprises. Sometimes exclusion is relatively passive, based on the ignorance or preferences of more powerful and better groups while leaving out certain groups or individuals.