(Photo credit: Alessandro Capurso / CC BY-NC-ND)
By Dilhani Wijeyesekera, former Country Director Restless Development Tanzania.
Tanzania is facing a youth unemployment crisis. The World Bank has reported that around 900,000 young people enter the country’s job market annually, but only 50,000 to 60,000 formal sector jobs are created each year. With more than 66% of the population under 25, this job shortage will keep rising. On the flipside, young people are adapting to their situation and increasingly seeking work and opportunities to make money in the informal sector. A study of young people across seven regions of the country, found that 75% of participants earned their main income through the informal sector with most earning around the poverty line.
What are the government and private sector doing in Tanzania to ensure young people can provide more for themselves and their households? How can they achieve a dividend for growth and development through the country’s young and energetic population?
Although Tanzania’s national poverty reduction strategy emphasises employment for women and young people, as yet there are no specific policies to directly support and protect young informal workers. Instead, Tanzania’s economic development and job creation efforts focus mostly on promoting large-scale infrastructure projects and strengthening the formal private sector. In addition, while services to develop small and medium enterprises are on the rise in Tanzania, most young Tanzanians sit well below the qualifying standards to access the micro-credit and loans they provide.
So what’s data got to do with all of this? As we focus on growth and development, how can open data help us to ensure young people are not being left behind? A key government instrument on the labour market is the Employment & Earnings Survey. However, it focuses heavily on the formal sector and currently does not include analysis of the youth informal sector, nor wage earners in seasonal smallholder agriculture. Of 9,431 businesses it consulted in 2012, less than 1% of its sample came from the 15-24 age group according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Over the last year, Restless Development has been working with grassroots networks of young people – dubbed ‘Kijana Wajibika’ (Youth Lets be Responsible!) – across fourteen regions of the country to ensure their voices are heard in the constitutional review process, and to create spaces for dialogue between young people and their leaders. A major theme coming out in the project’s participatory learning is that young people’s major concern for the future is their livelihoods, and their government’s accountability to provide a better environment to help this grow. The government has a key role in regulating access to land, business development services, and similar. I was talking to a young entrepreneur in our network a few weeks ago, and he shared some of the challenges with me: “To register my business in Mbeya, I need to travel to Dar to get the paperwork done. The registration costs are really high. After that, I’m faced with government audits for a business ten times my size. For those few of us who understand the rules, we just don’t bother to imagine growing and prefer to stay small.”
We at the youth-led development agency Restless Development want Tanzania’s national and local policies and actions on economic development to consider the informal economy and meet young people’s needs. In participatory research, young people in Tanzania have identified the trend of their increased movement into the informal economy as one of their greatest development challenges. That’s why we have chosen to focus on Tanzania in the first phase of the Big Idea, a new programme to support youth-led, data-intensive accountability. The programme is listed as one of the Voluntary Initiatives of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, driving on-going efforts to meet the Busan commitments on effective development co-operation and move into new areas such as open data for development, enhanced accountability and youth as partners for development.
In developing the Big Idea, we analysed why many well-intentioned projects hoping to unlock accountability through better data fall short of expectations. We believe this is partly because too little attention has been paid to ensuring that citizens and their organisations have the capacity and confidence to work with data and turn it into evidence for advocacy. We also believe that accountability is fundamentally about growing the relationships between citizens and governments, and expanding not only the space for participation, but growing the capacities and comfort levels of all parties involved to work together.
To get to that point, our district-level informal youth-led groups aim to work with national partners to reach around 2,000 young people. With training and mentoring, they will develop key questions of enquiry, pull together official data on young informal workers in Tanzania, and gather new data through community consultations. By bringing the two evidence bases together, they will build a clearer picture of the conditions for and priorities of young informal workers in Tanzania. Participants will then carry these messages into policy dialogues that will deepen their relationship with decision makers, focusing on areas where consensus can be expanded. From our experience in Tanzanian communities since 1998, we expect to see many young people creating their own community solutions to the challenges they find in collaboration with their community leaders and local governments.
The Big Idea programme is at an early stage, and we know that Tanzania is not alone in facing problems of youth unemployment and a growing informal sector. The World Bank’s 2014 report, Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, states that ‘informal is normal’, and a new study by International Labour Organisation on Labour Market Transitions of Young Women and Men in the United Republic of Tanzania, found youth informal employment in Tanzania to be at 78%. As well as Tanzania, we are also testing our Big Idea programme with youth-led, data-intensive accountability projects in Ghana and Nepal. We are also looking ahead to the Sustainable Development Goals to be decided upon late 2015, advocating that they should include a distinct goal on governance, which should support young people’s participation in governance at a national and global level.
In Tanzania, Ghana and Nepal, we hope to develop and test a model that could have potential wider replication in many other contexts where youth exclusion and youth poverty are barriers to development. We’ll be documenting and sharing our learning, and hoping to inspire others Please follow our progress on the Big Idea webpage as we go along, and get in touch if you want to know more about our work in Tanzania.
Dilhani Wijeyesekera served as Restless Development’s Country Director in Tanzania from February 2011 to December 2014. She is now a Global Director at Restless Development.