Tanzania: Why youth unemployment is still ‘the elephant in the room...’

What you need to know:

  • The challenge of youth unemployment has been described by former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa as a ticking ‘time bomb’

Moshi. Nothing is expected to elicit emotions and debate in the forthcoming elections more than youth employment - or lack thereof... And the agenda will be used as great political currency among the competing parties.

A worldwide problem, unemployment was described by former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa as a ‘time bomb’. Owing to the magnitude and prevalence of the problem, many analysts think that it should be accorded priority status.

Chadema has highlighted an in-depth analysis on pages 46 to 48 of its manifesto, while CCM has tackled the issue on pages 20-22 of its manifesto. ACT-Wazalendo puts it as their top priority.

The youth feel that even though the problem has been talked about time and again, CCM has not done much to alleviate the perennial problem.

The CCM 2015-2020 Manifesto states that the party if elected, would fight tooth and nail to eradicate poverty, corruption, lack of employment as well as protect peace of the country. But unemployment still persists.

Situation on the ground

It is estimated that the systems churn out between 600,000 and 800,000 graduates every year. These include university graduates graduating from tertiary and technical institutions, against available 50,000 job vacancies. Some stay as long as three years waiting for formal employment.

However, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its report titled ‘2019: Tanzania in Figures’ of June 2020, shows that the unemployment level went down from 10.1 in 2015 to 9.6 in 2019.

The report further says that the number of people employed has shot up from 20.5 to 22.5 million.

Party manifestos and unemployment

Chadema quotes a report from the Office of the Prime Minister of 2015/2016 saying there are 16.2 million youths: about 35.5 percent of total population. The party then came up with nine solutions to tackle unemployment.

Among them is creating an enabling environment by establishing work-oriented curriculums in all schools to foster self-employment initiatives.

The party also says that it will establish commercial farming, irrigation and construction of processing industries.

Also, the party states it is important to have credible database of the youth and their skills. They went on to further highlight the creation of legal framework requiring all financial institutions to offer affordable loans to enable capital creation and subsequent production.

The party sees as the panacea for employment the engagement of youth in cooperative-like movements and training of youth and women.

CCM, through its manifesto, envisages creation of programs to boost the economic statuses of women, youth and people with disabilities to employ themselves and create jobs for others.

The CCM government plans to start institutions that will create an enabling environment for youth who graduate from institutions of higher learning and tertiary colleges.

The party says it will specifically focus on land entrepreneurial education. Further adding that it plans to create employment for 8 million people.

ACT-Wazalendo, on the other hand, has promised the creation of 10 million jobs that will add a value chain to five million more people in the next five years.

What pundits say

Dr Richard Mbunda, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam and a political analyst, says the youth cannot be ignored in this Election Year.

“Basically, all the parties have tried to explain to the electorate how they will solve the problem of youth unemployment. ACT-Wazalendo has put youth unemployment as its top priority,” he says.

“Chadema has also done well on pages 46-48 of their manifesto. But, if you read CCM’s manifesto - on pages 20-22 - you will see that CCM’s plan is more beneficial,” he adds.

“CCM has the upper hand since it has been tried and tested through implementation of some of the projects promised in previous manifestos, including soft loans and development of the informal sector,” he says.

Noting that the elections will be stiff, he says the political parties will have a lot on their hands.

A High Court advocate, Frank Robert, says there is a serious unemployment problem caused by population increase, poor performance in some economic sectors, and other factors.

“Despite politicians’ claims that there is an increase in employment, youth unemployment is rife.

“The kind of education provided is not commensurate with the needs for self-employment. Today, even those trained at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) are unemployed because of lack of capital,” Frank says.

There are lapses in the agriculture sector and its value chain.

“In my opinion, the government should concentrate on agriculture and animal husbandry. Many youths have ventured into agriculture -but failed just as soon. There are no friendly policies in place,” he adds.

Youth speak

Anna Swai, a graduate in Business Administration, says the unemployment problem is dire - and that there is usually no capital to enable the youth to employ themselves.

According to Anna - who is self-employed - the government should come up with viable solutions.

Lilian Lyimo, a holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management, says the government should focus on entrepreneurial training.

Peter Mmbado, a Dar es Salaam resident, says that although he has not perused other parties’ manifestos, CCM’s manifesto offers only lip service on employment, as it have done nothing tangible about it.

In his opinion, nobody can solve the problem overnight.