Human capital: World Bank urges health and education leapfrogging

19Jul 2019
Henry Mwangonde
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Human capital: World Bank urges health and education leapfrogging

Tanzania needs to invest more in the health and education sectors to accelerate progress of the broader population especially the youth, if the country is to improve its human capital for sustainable development, says the latest economic update by the World Bank.

World Bank.

The report, launched in the commercial capital yesterday, says that to tackle the country’s barriers to human capital development requires boosting investments in multiple areas using a holistic approach by all government departments, aiming at providing quality services with special emphasis being placed on reaching vulnerable adolescent girls and targeting areas of the country that are lagging behind.

In addition, to narrow the gender earnings gap, the authors recommend reducing the time women spend in unpaid work and redistributing care responsibilities to enable them to spend more time in the labour market.

That would give women more access to and control of productive assets, and addressing market and institutional failures that limit opportunities for women, the report observes.

Speaking at the launching, World Bank Country Director Bella Bird said Tanzania’s wealth has increased by 45 percent since 1995, itself an important achievement, but the country’s population has also grown, leading to a decrease of per capita wealth, a situation that is not sustainable.

She said overall, Tanzania’s macroeconomic picture remains positive whereby inflation has remained low and stable, with the current account deficit expanding in recent months with higher imports and stagnant exports. It however remains well below the average for oil-importing African countries, the director noted.

“But as Tanzania pursues its national development priorities as articulated in its Development Vision 2025, lifts its population out of poverty and achieves status as an industrializing middle-income country, people are the most important asset it has – people are the real wealth of nations,” she stated.

For the country to achieve sustained and inclusive growth, it needs to make concerted investment in its people, as human capital is the most important asset of any country, she emphasized.

The latest Economic Update also provides a snapshot of recent economic developments and the outlook for the next few years.

“There is a lot for Tanzania and other countries to learn from the four countries that top the human capital index (HCI) ranking—Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong—whose success is explained by the fact that they made investing in youth a top priority, focusing on education and skills development at all stages of their progress,” said Quentin Wodon, World Bank lead economist and co-author of the 12th Tanzania Economic Update.

In recent years, Tanzania has made gains in human development, with reduced under-five mortality, an increase in the average number of years of schooling for its youth, and improved adult survival.

However, its human capital index (HCI) of 0.40 means that children born today in Tanzania may reach only 40 percent of the earnings that they could have attained with full health and education.

The World Bank launched the HCI in October 2018, as part of the new Human Capital Project to encourage countries to invest more and better in their people. The index focuses on five factors that have an important bearing for future earnings: the survival rate of children past age five, expected number of years of education completed by youth, the quality of learning in school, how long workers will remain in the workforce as measured by adult survival past 60 years of age, and prevention of stunting in young children.

Given its level of development, Tanzania performs especially poorly in the number of years of schooling that children complete and the risk that children under the age of five will be stunted. In addition, gender inequality in earnings is also affecting the country’s ability to increase its human capital wealth and thereby its total wealth per capita, the report underlined.