Dar es Salaam. The number of people living in poverty in Tanzania has risen because poverty reduction rates are still too low.
This has prompted the World Bank to call for more attention for agriculture, which it says has offered opportunities for accelerating poverty reduction in the country.
Tanzania’s economic growth, which is among the highest in the region, is mainly driven by sectors such as construction and mining.
The World Bank says in its 13th Tanzania Economic Update released yesterday that more needs to be done to improve the performance of agriculture, which employs close to two thirds of the population.
“Agriculture transformation in Tanzania can do much to drive future growth and employment and accelerate poverty reduction,” World Bank country director Bella Bird during the report’s unveiling.
“The current trends in agriculture offer a tremendous opportunity to catalyze private investment, both local and foreign, and raise the incomes of the poor. “Since agriculture already accounts for a quarter of total GDP and two-thirds of jobs, enhanced agricultural growth must be part of the strategy to create more and better jobs and alleviate poverty,” she said.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics’ latest Household Budget Survey, poverty in Tanzania fell from 28.2 per cent in 2011/12 to 26.4 per cent in the 2017/18.
However, the World Bank says this pace is too slow, and the number of people living in poverty has increased over time.
Going by the figures, the number of people living in poverty has increased from 12.67 million in 2012 to 14.75 million in 2019.
The World Bank report suggests urgent steps to improve agriculture-related policies, regulatory environment and investments for the sector to perform in line with its potential.
These include incentives such as low interest in agriculture financing, agro-processing and a shift in agricultural price policies such as export bans.
Yesterday’s launch included a panel discussion on the sector.
One of the panelists, Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank (TADB) managing director Japhet Justine, said the lender was playing a pivotal role in financing agriculture in Tanzania.
“We are now mobilising resources for the sector, and commercial banks are also supporting agriculture financing, which is needed in the production and processing of produce,” he said. The panelists also said interventions in agriculture should not be selective.
“We need a holistic approach by pumping in money to facilitate production and processing that meet international standards,” said Dr Blandina Kilama from the research think tank Repoa.
The World Bank said Tanzania’s economy will grow by 5.8 per cent in 2020, up from 5.6 per cent forecast for this year, and growth will rise to 6.1 per cent in 2021.
However, the World Bank’s 2019 forecast is lower than the government’s estimate of 7.1 per cent.