“Lived poverty” on the increase in Tanzania – Afrobarometer on Tanzania #1

“It’s all rosy for Tanzania,” runs the Daily News headline. It’s not about media freedom, the state of public services, political stability or religious tolerance, but another vitally important component in the country’s development – economic growth. The article goes on to give some impressive growth figures, by anyone’s standards:

“The 2013 African Economic Outlook Report, launched last week, confirmed the impressive performance of the economy, which grew [by] 6.9% in 2012 and is estimated to reach 7% this year and 7.2% in 2014.”

But another recent report raised some very important questions about this economic growth. In particular, is economic growth benefiting the poor?

I’m talking about the Afrobarometer survey series, which published its latest data and reports last week. Their survey results and analysis are always worth looking at, as the data is among the best data on public opinion across the continent. The latest round covered 35 countries. It hit the headlines for its conclusion that the “Africa Rising” narrative needs more nuance – see here in the Guardian, for example.

This focussed on what the folks at Afrobarometer term “Lived Poverty” – the experience of people having to go without basic essentials such as food, water, fuel, medicine and cash. See this paper (pdf) for details. This provides a very useful alternative view on poverty, different to the standard economic definition that’s based on daily income levels. And because the same questions about going without were asked in all 35 countries, and in surveys covering several years, the Lived Poverty measure offers excellent opportunities for making comparisons.

So what does it say about Tanzania? Two facts:

Fact 1.”Lived Poverty” in Tanzania has increased over the past ten years. 

This matches the report’s headline conclusion: that economic growth has benefited the wealthy, leaving the poor stuck in poverty, or even getting poorer. In the chart below, see how the line for Tanzania rises, representing an increase in lived poverty since 2002. See also how lived poverty has declined over the same period in several other comparable countries.

Source: Afrobarometer.org

Source: data from Afrobarometer.org

Fact 2. Going without” some basic essentials is more common in Tanzania than in most of the rest of Africa:

  • 62% of Tanzanians went without clean water in the past 12 months, compared to an average of 49% across Africa.
  • 71% of Tanzanians went without medicines or medical care in the past 12 months, compared to an average of 53% across Africa.
  • 55% of Tanzanians went without enough food in the past 12 months, compared to an average of 50% across Africa.
Source: data from Afrobarometer.org

Source: data from Afrobarometer.org

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About the data

This is the first in a series of blogposts based on the Afrobarometer survey data – some of the best available data on public opinion across the continent. It’s a rich and detailed dataset, and has an excellent online data analysis tool. Data for the 2012 survey was collected in Tanzania by REPOA under the direction of an impressive list of partners running the programme Africa-wide.