Unchecked population growth hampers efforts to battle poverty

16Jan 2019
By Financial Times Reporter
Dar es Salaam
Financial Times
Unchecked population growth hampers efforts to battle poverty

Tanzania has made some gains in poverty reduction, but there are marked disparities in these gains along spatial lines, the World Bank has observed.

Though headcount poverty fell from 34 to 28 per cent between 2007 and 2012 based on the national poverty line, the same is still high in absolute terms (12 million people), and this is ascribed to high population growth.


This is in accordance with the Country Partnership Framework (CPF) between the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency on the one hand, and the government on the other.


The CPF became effective last February and runs for five years from the 2018 fiscal year. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Tanzania’s population projections for 2018 stands at 54.199 million with population growth calculated at 2.9 per cent in Tanzania Mainland, according to the 2012 national census.


According to available data, rural poverty decreased by 15 per cent and poverty in Dar es Salaam recorded a 72 per cent reduction. Jobs availability in the public and private sector was a big contributor to poverty reduction in Dar es Salaam, followed by non-farm/agri-businesses.


Based on national poverty lines, between 2007 and 2012, headcount poverty declined from 34.4 to 28.2 per cent and extreme poverty from 11.7 to 9.7 per cent in the Mainland. Nevertheless, the absolute number of poor people remained high at 11.9 million (2012) mainly attributable to a high fertility rate averaging more than five births per woman.


Similarly in Zanzibar, the poverty rate declined from 34.9 per cent in 2010 to 30.4 per cent in 2015.


Efforts employed to fight poverty have had some positive results with poverty becoming more responsive to growth in some areas, with declining consumption inequality. But a large number poor people are still clustered around the poverty line.


According to the World Bank, factors contributing to poverty reduction in the rural areas include education, a move away from agriculture to non-farm activities and household businesses, commercial agriculture and agri-business, access to communications and transportation, and roads that enhance access to markets.


Financial transfers through mobile money, and the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), have also been named among factors which helped to reduce poverty in rural areas.


The CPF was developed following a decade of strong growth and poverty reduction to address the challenges of carving a growth path that is more inclusive and sustainable.


“The CPF program will deepen transport, Information and communication technology (ICT), and energy investments to support spatial transformation and inclusive growth, and will significantly scale up human capital development,” reads part of the document seen by Financial Times.


A large share of the population hovers around the poverty line, likely to escape poverty but also prone to fall into it, says the CPF, noting that a 10 per cent change in the poverty line would lead to a 20 per cent change in the poverty rate.


But spatial variation in poverty reduction was significantly noted. For instance, poverty declined by over 70 per cent in Dar es Salaam but only by about 15 per cent in the rural areas, where 70 per cent of the population lived, while remaining about unchanged in secondary cities and towns.


“The uneven spatial decline of poverty is related to the pattern of economic growth, which almost entirely centred in Dar es Salaam where most of the flourishing sectors - such as telecommunications and finance - are concentrated,” says the report.


Some poor households outside Dar es Salaam have, nonetheless, experienced some increase in their consumption. The increase in consumption of the poorest groups in rural and secondary cities has been driven by the improvement of households’ endowments like education, ownership of communication and transportation means as well as improved access to community infrastructure like roads and electricity.


An improvement in returns to non-farm activities and wage employment also contributed to higher consumption levels and a decline in poverty.


Rural – urban inequality

According to the World Bank document, differences in the distribution of household demographic characteristics - in particular, parental education - is an important determinant of rural-urban inequality.


“Inequality between urban and rural areas as well as between Dar es Salaam and other regions has increased, with better-off households in Dar es Salaam and urban areas becoming richer,” says the report.


While 20 per cent of the gap is explained by parental education, expanding employment opportunities and increasing returns to wage work in the public and private sector, access to basic infrastructure that helps rural households connect to markets are also important factors.


The World Bank notes that performance over the last decade on non-income measures of well-being has been mixed.


It notes for instance that gains in health and education have been significant with life expectancy at birth rising by 15 years between 2000 and 2014, reflecting steep reductions in communicable diseases and in infant and child mortality, attributed to better immunisation coverage, improved access to primary care, and continued declines in AIDS.


The World Bank notes in the report that maternal mortality has not improved in the last ten years.


Maternal deaths in the country, with a ratio of 578 per 100 000, represent 18 per cent of all deaths of women age 15-49, according to 2015 data.  The main direct causes of maternal death were haemorrhages, infections, unsafe abortions, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labours.


The presence of these causes is exacerbated by HIV and malaria, Tanzania's number one killer.


The fact that more than half of births in Tanzania occur at home also contributes to the elevated maternal mortality rate. Of all pregnant women, only 46 per cent are assisted during childbirth by a doctor, clinical officer, nurse, midwife or maternal and child health aide.


Meanwhile, primary school enrolment shot up, from less than 55 per cent in 1990 to nearly 90 per cent by 2013 - but education quality is low, and dropout rates from primary to secondary are high, especially among girls. 


Introduction of free education from primary to secondary level by the fifth phase government has made the enrolment even better.