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Poverty

How can the mobile revolution lift up Tanzania’s poor?

Isis Gaddis's picture

Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a boom in mobile phone users over the past decade. The total number of cell phone subscriptions on the continent increased from just over 11 million in 2000 to 463 million in 2011 and is expected to grow even further. This technology not only affects day-to-day life and communication, but has the potential to boost economic development directly and indirectly.

In creating jobs, for instance, mobile phone technology has contributed towards the reduction of poverty. But more important are its indirect effects on the economy such as the increased connectivity of firms and micro-enterprises which increases their access to information and facilitates the movement of money through mobile transfers.

Africa's MICs

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Hardly a week goes by without an African investors’ conference or growth summit. Portuguese professionals are looking for opportunities in Angola. Silicon Valley companies are coming to Kenya to learn about its homegrown ICT revolution. This is not an irrational fad. Since the turn of the century, Africa’s growth has been robust (averaging 5-6 percent GDP growth a year), making important contributions to poverty reduction. The current boom is underpinned by sound macro policies and political stability. Unlike in some rich countries, public debt levels in most of Africa are sustainable.

One way to track Africa’s progress is by charting the number of countries that have achieved “Middle Income status”.

Is Tanzania attracting enough tourists?

Waly Wane's picture

Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Tourism is among the world’s most lucrative industries. The latest figures from 2009 show that the industry generated US$852 billion in export earnings worldwide, accommodated more than 800 million travelers, and accounted for more than 255 million jobs or nearly 11 per cent of the global workforce in that year. It is no surprise then that this industry is considered a major driver for employment, growth and development.

We want jobs, jobs, jobs

Isis Gaddis's picture

Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Jobs are at the very heart of living. Families escape poverty when their members secure gainful employment, and societies flourish when labor markets offer a wide range of job opportunities to citizens. And there is more to jobs than just monetary benefits. Not having a job or working under unfavorable conditions is often associated with low individual life satisfaction. Youth unemployment, in particular, can undermine the foundations of social cohesion, especially in fragile countries with a legacy of civil unrest and conflict.

Safety nets and poverty reduction: A hand-up not a hand-out

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Do you sometimes wonder if the average person is benefiting when the economy is doing well? Aren’t the poor left behind, even in the most rapidly growing economies? Concerns around rising inequality exist in many countries, rich and poor, East and West. Kenya is among them.

Over the last 10 years, the economy grew at an average of about 4 percent. With population growth of 2.7 percent, every Kenyan would have benefited by a modest 1.3 percent per year, but that assumes the growth was distributed evenly.

Even though many governments around the world want to avoid rising inequality — at least this is what many say — they often don’t achieve it. One challenge is that the already well off tend to benefit more during periods of economic growth. The poor typically also benefit, but their income rises more slowly. Does this mean rising inequality is here to stay?

Only 14% of Tanzanians have electricity. What can be done?

Isis Gaddis's picture

Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Energy fuels economic development and the evidence is before our eyes every day.  Businesses require a steady supply of energy to produce goods and services.  Electricity allows school children to study after sunset and hospitals need it to save lives Insufficient or irregular energy supply is associated with significant economic cost for businesses and households.  Lack of access to clean energy also creates a myriad of health and environmental hazards, such as indoor pollution from cooking on traditional open-fire stoves and deforestation.

Unfortunately, affordable access to clean energy remains an elusive dream for most Tanzanians, especially those living outside of urban centers and the poor:

For shared prosperity Tanzania needs a universal strategy

Jacques Morisset's picture

The figures don’t lie. Today, about 11 million Tanzanians live in poverty. This is too much. Equally worrisome is that since 2001 the national poverty rate appears to be stuck at approximately a third of the total population despite rapid and stable economic growth.

People need jobs

For a long time, the Tanzanian Government has defended itself: poverty reduction will catch up thanks to the massive public investment made in social and infrastructure sectors over the past decade. More children, including girls, are going to school, and the efforts to reduce infant mortality have registered spectacular achievements. However, it is estimated that those improvements will take one generation to translate into actual productivity gains and higher incomes.

Living a long and healthy life – Africa and Kenya are only starting to catch up

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Soon after I turned 40, I started experiencing back problems. I asked my brother for advice (he is a medical doctor) but didn’t quite like what I heard. “Sorry brother, our bodies are just not built for us to live much beyond 40…” he told me. If you take human evolution as a reference, he is right.

For the first 59,900 years of our existence (out of a total of 60,000), people used to live only into their 30s, at best. During the 1000 or so years that followed, there were some modest improvements raising life expectancy to 40 years. Things really changed only in the past 100 years on the backdrop of major medical and sanitation breakthroughs.

Invest in nutrition to invest in the future?

Janneke Hartvig Blomberg's picture

Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Malnutrition has detrimental effects on a child's physical growth (stunting); it can also result in irreversible damage to their brain and mental development, and it increases their risk to illness and death. The biggest impact of malnutrition is seen in the first 1,000 days of life of a child's life - from the time of conception to the time they reach their second birthday.

For women, malnutrition increases risk during pregnancy and the delivery of low birth weight babies. Malnutrition is a serious issue in Tanzania as shown by the following statistics:

Improving access to drugs: Fitting the solution to the problem

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Patricio Marquez’s post correctly  identifies lack of access  to quality medicines as one of the  constraints to poor people’s health in Africa.    But the  solutions he recommends—more public money for “essential drugs benefits”, building  resilient institutions,  and providing  physicians  with better  scientific information  and guidelines  about  drug  prescriptions—are   unlikely   by    themselves  to   improve poor   people’s   health  outcomes.

More public money.  Patricio notes that out-of-pocket expenditures are about 40 percent of total health expenditures and most of this is spent on outpatient drugs.  He assumes the reason is that countries have not adopted a program of essential drugs benefits, and the reason for the latter is lack of public resources.  But consider the following facts. 

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