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Expanding women’s access to opportunities can help Tanzania: World Bank report

Tanzania stands to benefit enormously from expanding women’s economic opportunities, especially in terms of access to land and productive assets, according to the World Bank economic analysis for the country

The 17th Tanzania Economic Update, Empowering Women: Expanding Access to Assets and Economic Opportunities, shows that bridging the gender gap in agricultural productivity in Tanzania could lift approximately 80,000 citizens out of poverty every year while increasing annual agricultural output by 2.7% and boosting annual gross domestic product growth by 0.86%. Eliminating the gender wage gap could have significant effects on household welfare.

“The expansion of women’s economic opportunities has contributed to Tanzania’s sustained growth over the past 20 years, which recently culminated in its transition from low-income to lower-middle-income status,” said Mara Warwick, World Bank country director. “However, more can be done to enhance women’s ability to realise their full economic potential and play a pivotal role in supporting an inclusive and resilient post-crisis recovery.”

The economic update shows that Tanzania has made important progress in several areas. The female labour-force participation rate rose from 67% in 2000 to 80% in 2019, well above the average of 63% for sub-Saharan Africa, and among the highest on the continent. Moreover, a large share of Tanzanian women are now salaried workers, and the ratio of women to men in jobs paying wages and salaries rose from 0.35 in 2000 to 0.64 in 2019. Meanwhile, the share of women engaged in unpaid agricultural work fell from 78% in 2004-05 to 64% in 2015-16.

The report authors, however, note that Tanzania’s large and persistent gender gaps in agricultural productivity, wage rates, the business environment, access to land, home ownership and financial services continue to slow economic growth. The authors identify several persisting constraints for women along with actionable suggestions for addressing these to enhance economic opportunities for women. For example, while most of Tanzania’s labour force remains concentrated in agriculture, the sector suffers a significant gender gap in productivity; estimated at 20-30%. A full 97% of the gender gap is attributable to women’s low access to male family labour, while the remaining percent reflects lower levels of access to agricultural implements and pesticides.

“Addressing the gender gap in agricultural productivity requires policymakers to focus on expanding women’s access to male household labour, increasing their use of agricultural inputs, and encouraging their uptake of digital technologies,” said Yaa Pokua Afriyie Oppong, World Bank sector leader and report co-author.

“The government can promote women’s economic empowerment by providing tailored business and life skills training to female entrepreneurs,” said Inaam Ul Haq, World Bank program leader and report co-author. 

The authors also call for strengthening of women’s land rights by offering land-titling subsidies to lower-income households and by providing incentives to encourage spouses to co-title. Land reforms are recommended to address the quality of service-delivery and boost female land ownership.

To further support the recovery, the World Bank recommends strengthening policies to address the pandemic in the short term, while laying the groundwork for a private-sector-led recovery over the medium-to-long term.