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publication February 28, 2022

Tanzania Economic Update: Addressing Women’s Economic Constraints Could Accelerate Tanzania’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction

Latest Issue: 
  • March 2022

Keeping female students enrolled in school can boost and protect their human capital.

Photo: Alessandra Argenti/World Bank


  • Sustained progress in expanding women’s economic opportunities has contributed to Tanzania’s success in growth and poverty reduction over the last 20 years.
  • However, persisting constraints hinder women from realizing their full economic potential, such as wage differentials by gender, inequitable access to land and assets and gender disparities in the agricultural sector.
  • The country stands to gain significantly from expanding women’s opportunities, including a boost of 0.86% to its annual GDP, in addition to making Tanzania’s growth more inclusive, improving household welfare, and increasing the value of its human capital.

DAR ES SALAAM, March 1, 2022 – Tanzania has made important achievements in expanding women’s economic opportunities over the past 20 years. The female labor-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 rates on the continent. In addition, more Tanzanian women are now compensated employees, and the ratio of women to men in jobs paying wages and salaries rose from 0.35:1 in 2000 to 0.64:1 in 2019, while the share of women engaged in unpaid agricultural work fell from 78% in 2004-05 to 64% in 2015-16.

While this progress has contributed to the country’s sustained economic growth, culminating in its transition from low-income to lower-middle-income status in July 2020, a new World Bank report shows that several constraints hinder the ability of Tanzanian women to realize their full economic potential. Addressing these could greatly accelerate the country’s economic development and poverty reduction, with potentially a boost of 0.86%to its annual GDP from bridging the gap in agricultural productivity alone.

“Our analysis shows there are enormous benefits to be gained from bridging the gender gap in agricultural productivity, eliminating the gender wage gap, and strengthening women’s land tenure security and Tanzania needs to consider these urgently,” said Mara Warwick, World Bank Country Director. “In addition, enhancing financial inclusion is critical – it is associated with significantly lower rates of poverty and income inequality, as well as faster rates of economic growth and employment creation.”

The newly-published 17th Tanzania Economic Update, “Empowering Women: Expanding Access to Assets and Economic Opportunities,” shows women continue to face serious constraints related to access to land, labor, and productive assets. About 25% of men are sole owners of land, versus just 8% of women; while about 7% of women are sole homeowners, compared to 26% of men. Tanzania’s rates of both land ownership and home ownership are below the average for Sub-Saharan Africa.



The gender gap in agricultural productivity is estimated at 20-30%, and a full 97% of the gap is explained by women’s diminished access to male family labor, while the remaining percent reflects lower levels of access to agricultural inputs and pesticides.

Urban poverty rates are significantly higher among female-headed households (20%) than among male-headed households (14%), and the share of employed women dropped from 79% in 2004-05 to 72% in 2015-16. In addition, women are much more likely than men to be engaged in unpaid labor, and women with wage jobs tend to earn less than their male counterparts. And in 2017, 44% of men had a mobile-money account compared to 33% of women.

Tanzania’s average fertility rate is considered high at 4.8 children per adult woman, and elevated fertility rates—including high rates of adolescent pregnancy—are correlated with decreased economic activity, lower levels of education, poverty, and diminished female agency.

The report's authors suggest several recommendations to alleviate these disparities and enhance economic efficiency while contributing to broad and lasting gains in overall household welfare, including:

  • Promote women’s economic empowerment by expanding apprenticeship programs and offering tailored business and life-skills training to female entrepreneurs. : Training in financial and business skills can bolster savings and capital investment, increase the probability of opening new businesses, and strengthen their decision-making power within the household.
  • Strengthen women’s land rights by offering land-titling subsidies to lower-income households and by providing incentives to encourage spouses to co-title. Offering subsidies to lower-income families increases the likelihood that they would acquire a formal land title.
  • Accelerate overall land-reforms. Evidence has shown that land reforms that reduce the costs of registering land have increased female land ownership, improved quality-of-service delivery, and boosted registered land sales.
  • Address the gender gap in agricultural productivity by expanding women’s access to male household labor, increasing their use of agricultural inputs, and encouraging their uptake of digital technologies. Alleviating financial constraints and tackling negative gender norms can eliminate distortions on the allocation of agricultural labor.
  • Behavioral interventions can promote financial inclusion among women and strengthen their capacity to manage both their personal and business finances. Simply having access to a bank account is associated with a greater propensity to save and invest.
  • Strengthen efforts to end child-marriage, lower school dropout rates, and provide childcare support to expand women’s participation in the workforce. Conditional-cash-transfer programs have also proven to be an effective strategy for keeping female students enrolled in school.
  • Additional legislative initiatives should be introduced to outlaw child marriage and address gender inequalities in secondary education: High levels of child marriage in Tanzania contribute to increased levels of maternal mortality and population growth; putting a significant strain on the educational budget and hampering women’s ability to participate in the labor market.
  • Government bodies must also continue to make use of their regulatory powers to enforce laws which seek to protect women’s access to land and safeguard them against discrimination in the workplace.