Skip to content

Story and Perspective

Pathfinder Tanzania: Driving a Demographic Dividend

Meshack Mollel

We know what we need to do to lift Tanzanians out of poverty, fuel a vibrant and dynamic economy, and improve health and well-being—and Pathfinder International Tanzania has been working for the last eight years to communicate and advance solutions for lasting change.

If applied in unison, these evidence-based solutions can help Tanzania reach a demographic dividend—defined as, the potential for economic growth that results when a population’s age structure shifts and the share of people working in the labor force is greater than those who are not. In other words, there is a large working-age population of adults, and a small population of dependents, usually children, young adolescents, and the elderly.

Children walking to school. Photo Credit: Northern Tanzania Rangelands Initiative and photographer Roshni Lodhia.

To reach a demographic dividend, high fertility rates must fall, child mortality rates must decline significantly, and health and life expectancy must improve. Voluntary family planning is an essential tenet of reaching a demographic dividend. Enabling women to make informed decisions about bearing children is proven to reduce high fertility rates and the number of dependents in each household, improve health and well-being, and engage more women in the workforce.

In addition to family planning, a demographic dividend can only be reached if people have access to:

  • Quality education and skills development that make them eligible for employment.
  • Employment and entrepreneurship opportunities that improve their economic prosperity.
  • Health care that improves their health and well-being.
Lulu Gama a home based care provider visits a family in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

More than 60 percent of Tanzania’s population is younger than 25 years. Investments in health, education, and prosperity must be geared to ensuring young people thrive. It is only by their full participation in society that a demographic dividend can be realized.

These solutions were modeled during an exercise commissioned in 2012 by Pathfinder’s Evidence to Action Project in Tanzania, and conducted by the School of Economics, University of Dar es Salaam, and the African Institute for Development Policy. If applied in unison, and at scale, the solutions have the potential to lift 6 million Tanzanians out of poverty, drastically increase the Gross Domestic Product, and significantly improve the Human Development Index—a combination of indicators used to measure health and well-being—by 2055.

Findings from the modeling exercise were meant to:

  • Influence decision-makers about how to fuel economic growth through national policies.
  • Help economic planners to design and conduct national development initiatives.
  • Arrive at approaches to sustain investments in education, health, family planning, and economic reforms.

Specific recommendations from the modeling exercise included: increasing investments in family planning commodities and educational campaigns, curbing the unmet demand for contraception, preventing early marriage and teenage childbearing, reinforcing interventions to reduce child mortality, and strengthening public-private partnership to deliver family planning services. Pathfinder programs in Tanzania have been involved in advancing some of these recommendations.

Woman distributing Mobilizing Maternal Health brochures.

Through a series of advocacy efforts with the national government, educational initiatives across communities, and collaboration with the media, Pathfinder Tanzania also influenced the inclusion of findings from the modeling exercise in Tanzania’s five-year national development plan (2015/16-2020/21). The Tanzanian government is now in the process of elaborating its third and next five-year national development plan (2021/22-2025/26), and Pathfinder is engaged in another effort to advocate for investments in key solutions, especially voluntary family planning. As part of this effort, Pathfinder worked with the Media Council of Tanzania to develop a guide for journalists on the demographic dividend and key messages for communicating about it in Tanzania.

Although the child mortality rate has fallen since the modeling exercise was conducted in 2012 and there have been efforts to create jobs and invest in education, the total fertility rate has remained high, with Tanzanian women having an average of more than 5 children in their lifetimes. A demographic dividend will never be realized without increased, sustained investments in voluntary family planning. Pathfinder is working with partners in Tanzania to communicate the value of the demographic dividend solutions across wards, villages, and households, framing family planning as a social, cultural, and development issue, and not just a health issue.

In addition to the evidence-based solutions applied during the modeling exercise, we know from our experience working in Tanzania that families must also have ready access to nutritious food and clean water. They must be able to adapt to changes in their environment caused by climate change. Solutions must also address these issues to reach a demographic dividend.

But it is not too late. It is time to invest in these solutions—to ensure young people, and every Tanzanian—can reach their potential, for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country.

More Stories

Pathways – June 2024: Honoring Refugees Around the World

Pathfinder works with local, government, and humanitarian partners to design programs that respond to the unique needs of women and…

Read More

During Security Crisis, Burkinabe NGOs Play Critical Role in Healthcare Delivery

Local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Burkina Faso’s Centre Nord, Sahel, and Est regions have been critical to sustaining healthcare delivery…

Read More

Pathfinder Study to Inform Health Systems Strengthening Investments in Flood-Prone Areas of Bangladesh

Climate change has made flooding during the monsoon season in Bangladesh more severe and erratic—leaving health systems unprepared to serve…

Read More