The move will see Zanzibar becoming the first East African country and the sixth in Africa after Lesotho, South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius and Botswana to cater the elderly with free monthly fortunes.
Launching the programme yesterday, the Isles’ Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Empowerment, Elderly, Youth, Women and Children, Asha Ali Abdallah said the move would benefit 5,707 men and 7,445 women on Unguja island and 3,870 men and 4,730 female senior citizens on its sister island of Pemba who will be fetching Sh20,000 every month.
The venture is also an implementation of the 2020 Development Vision to improve the Isles’ economy and to enrich the Islanders in a programme that was masterminded by the parliament last year.
Minister Abdallah who was appointed to the post earlier in the month said her ministry had collaborated with other institutions such as HelpAge International to register all eligible members of the Zanzibar elderly.
“It is our responsibility to take care of the old people and have them lead decent lives,” she said.
HelpAge International Country Director, Amleset Tewodros hailed Zanzibar government for the endeavour, saying establishment of the Universal Pension signaled a move towards eliminating poverty in all forms and reducing imbalance in life standards among the people.
“Though the amount is not that big, we strongly believe it will have a positive impact on the elderly if complemented in line with a wider spectrum of social security measures,” she said.
Tewodros believes that the stride taken by the government is a proof of its dedication to meeting its social protection obligations under the international, regional and national commitments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization Convention 102 that call for social guarantee for every person.
She also called upon other countries in the East African region to emulate the Zanzibari course, saying; “It is our hope that the step taken by the government will inspire others and have far reaching impact across the East African region.”
She pledged further support in ensuring the pension scheme is properly carried out through monitoring its realization and accountability of the involved systems under her organisation’s jurisdiction.