By Mari Pangestu
I had the opportunity to visit Tanzania last month, my first mission to Africa since joining the World Bank. It was a long-awaited trip, as I wanted to see for myself what more we can do to support countries that are striving to recover from Covid-19. Coming from Indonesia, I also thought there were experiences that I could share from my own country’s development.
Tanzania has seen sustained growth over the past two decades, but like many developing countries, Covid-19 has taken its toll. Its economy is projected to expand by 4.3 percent in 2021 but poverty remains above pre-pandemic levels.
When I met President Samia Suluhu Hassan to discuss how we can deepen our partnership, I was very impressed with her ideas for Tanzania’s development.
Our conversation covered a broad range of issues from human capital, education, health, digital development, climate change and energy access as well as transport and regional economic integration, and we connected on the need to address gender equity for Tanzania to thrive.
Investing in human capital, focused on empowering women and girls, is particularly important at this time when globally, an estimated decade worth of gains in human capital outcomes have been lost due to the pandemic.
The government’s recent announcement to provide more education opportunities to students who have dropped out of school, including pregnant girls, is welcome news.
A World Bank study estimates that the limited educational opportunities for girls, and barriers to completing 12 years of education, cost countries between $15 trillion to $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings.
Educating girls can help lift households, communities, and countries out of poverty
The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) has been supporting Tanzania’s development, especially in their efforts to address the gender gap. The Makangarawe Market in Dar es Salaam is one such example. Amidst the hustle and bustle, I saw women busy at work, fruits and vegetables piled neatly in their stalls. The market boasts clean, well-functioning spaces for traders, many of them women, benefiting from improvements that were made as part of an urban development project. It reminded me of my own experience as a minister in the Indonesian government, when I worked to rehabilitate traditional markets to cater to the needs of women, including washroom and child-care facilities. Gender-sensitive design in projects such as this can make a big difference in giving women greater access to economic opportunities.
I was also impressed to see how the Tanzanian Judiciary, also supported by IDA, is using mobile courts to improve service delivery to citizens, especially women. This “Justice on Wheels” is providing affordable and accessible legal advice and services to underserved areas and people. Another innovation is the One-Stop Centre for Probate and Family Matters in Temeke, Dar es Salaam, one of six such centres that I visited. These centres consolidate justice services for all family matters (inheritance, alimony, divorce, probate, and other property matters) under one roof.
To be sure, these are particularly challenging times for developing countries. The Covid-19 crisis has been very unequal, hitting the poorest hardest, and the recovery has been uneven. While about 90 percent of advanced economies are expected to regain their pre-pandemic per capita income levels by 2022, only about one-third of emerging markets and developing economies are projected to do the same.
At the World Bank Group, we are helping countries address the immediate impact of the crisis, including access to vaccines and improving social safety net systems, but we are also looking ahead. This is an opportunity to examine the structural issues that existed before the pandemic, and work towards green, resilient, and inclusive development (GRID). In a world where we face multiple crises – from Covid-19 to climate change – we need to recognise that poverty, inequality, climate, and environmental degradation are closely interlinked. Development policy needs to consider sustainability, resilience, and inclusiveness in a much more integrated manner, putting people at the centre.
As I exchanged views with a wide range of partners on Tanzania’s development priorities, I saw many opportunities for collaboration to foster GRID. In addition to inclusive education and women’s empowerment, climate change was high on my mind, having attended COP26 in Glasgow just before arriving in Tanzania.
I emphasised that there cannot be a trade-off between green and growth: Climate action needs to be integrated into development planning, not later but now. In Tanzania, this is more about strengthening climate resilience. While creating transformative project portfolios that are fit-for-purpose – to grow sustainably and reduce poverty – countries must create the right conditions to encourage investments in physical, human, and natural capital.
Another opportunity I discussed is regional economic integration. It’s not just about the physical infrastructure, but trade facilitation as well. One recent analysis shows that the cost of trade is much higher in developing countries than it is in developed countries. What we need to do in the short term is to address the streamlining of bureaucratic procedures at the border to better manage the process of clearing goods. This is where digital technology can help. In the medium term, improvements of ports, logistics and transport will be needed.
As I left Tanzania, I felt energised. In Dar es Salaam I met with youth who are making a difference working on climate change, women empowerment, biodiversity, agribusiness, and creative arts, innovating in the use of technology in their activities. I heard from them the urgency in addressing issues like digital infrastructure investment, literacy, and connectivity, as well as access to capital to enable them scale up viable ideas.
They were passionate about finding solutions to the challenges they see in their own country. I have always believed that engaging with young people is important, not only for ideas and inspiration, but also as our conscience. It is to them that we are ultimately accountable, and we must roll up our sleeves to help.
Mari Pangestu is the World Bank's managing director of Development policy and partnerships