East Africa’s Poverty and Human Development Indicators

Human Development Indicators 2013


According to the 2013 World Bank report,  here are the poverty levels in the East African region……using the poverty cut-off point of $1.25 per person.

Uganda’s poverty head count stands at 38.01 per cent
Kenya’s 43.37 per cent,
In Rwanda, poverty stands at 63.17
Tanzania stands at 67.87 per cent
While in Burundi it is at 81.32 per cent,
Burundi and Tanzania therefore have the largest proportion of poor people among the members of the East African Community.

Find the Report Here:

However, this is different from UNDP’s Human Development report 2012, that ranks Kenya first, then Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in that order.

Find the report Here

And these are Highlights to Progress of the Millennium Development Goals  In Africa

  • MDG 1: Africa (excluding North Africa) made the least progress in reducing poverty. It is about 41 per cent off the 2015 target, versus 25 per cent in South Asia and 6.1 per cent in Latin America.
  • MDG 2: Many African countries are on track to achieve this goal. Some have progressed on net enrolment, with most countries reaching 90 per cent. Issues of quality remain.
  • MDG 3: Good progress at primary level but weak parity at secondary and tertiary levels of education. High representation of women in parliament.
  • Goal 4: Child mortality is declining but slowly.
  • Goal 5: Maternal health is still a grave concern for most of Africa.
  • Goal 6: HIV/AIDS on the decline, especially in Southern Africa, due to behavioural change and access to antiretroviral therapy. Malaria mortality in Africa rates have declined by more than a third since 2000 owing to increased prevention and control measures.
  • Goal 7: Improved water supply. Few countries have reforestation plans. Emissions minimal for most countries with little increase. Most countries reduced consumption of ozone depleting substances by more than 50%.

Find  both the African regional and specific country reports here: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/mdg/mdg-reports/africa-collection/

Have you ever seen a female tour guide?

Have you ever seen a female tour guide?

I have had a good share of safaris all over East Africa but I haven’t found a female tour guide and neither have I met a female safari driver. Could women be missing out on the biggest economic activity in the African formal labour market?

Consider this conversation between one female tourist and an administrator of the tour company.

Tourist: Are all of the guides men?

Arnold the manager: Yes

Tourist: Why haven’t you hired any women as guides?

Arnold: [Laughing, looking at male guides] Ah, well, guiding a safari is hard work.

Tourist: Driving and talking about wildlife? Women can’t do that?

Arnold: Ah, but they have to change tires.

Tourist: I can change a tire [Slight exaggeration.]

Arnold: Ah well, some there are some guides who are women, but they are very few in all of Tanzania.

Tourist: But you haven’t hired those guides?

Arnold:[Laughing] Ah, no, not yet

Are the women not interested? Why there is low supply of female safari guides as Arnold asserts? Are there not many trained women guides or they are just not hired because “Safari work is too hard” for them? Is this yet another cultural stereotype of allocation of gender roles, or sheer sexism?  Maybe looking at the whole tourism sector would give us some answers.

You might find women are not necessarily marginalised from tourism as a whole. There could be considerable female tour operators or some in Hotel tourism and management. However, if we are to look at numbers, I don’t believe I have come across many female safari business owners. Zeroing down to qualitative indices such as participation of women in the sector, how much the females earn, comfort at the job and general individual control in the sector, the picture becomes grimmer. Most of the women will be indeed be employed in hotels, as secretaries and cashiers, where they earn the lowest wages.  And don’t forget the local women with small handicrafts businesses and the Maasai women selling beads and ornaments.

So after all the shouting we hear from governments about gender mainstreaming, female empowerment and bringing women in business, why has no one ever thought about this?

Is Hyper- Specialisation Killing Africa’s workforce?

 Is job specialisation killing the ideal of innovativeness and problem solving in developing countries, most especially Africa? Do we really need specialisation?




Africa is a continent faced with a multitude of interconnected problems ranging from droughts, famine, hunger, chronic poverty, conflicts, and disease to weak institutions, unemployment and brain drain.  Do we need an expert to solve each problem independently? Why shouldn’t we just groom a well-rounded workforce to tackle such challenges at once?  Why should a doctor be confined to hospitals and a teacher to the four walls of a classroom?

First of all, how did we get here? Is our education to blame? Is specialization at odds with the idea of a well-rounded education?
There are huge problems on the quality of education in East Africa. The education system is more bent on meting out a prescribed worker rather than developing the individual’s overall capabilities. The skillset obtained is limited to only the job a student hopes to do, mostly the highest paying one. This is in total disregard of the student’s interests and talents. Thus, the jobs market is constantly receiving half baked, underqualified and an unmotivated workforce. Most people are working “just for the money.”

It is no wonder that corruption is rife, accountability is unpredictable and performance unsatisfactory. People are not just good enough. Labour economists might argue against this idea, stressing that to solve this problem, we need more qualified people in particular jobs. However, as a realist I would put economics on the side because of two main reasons.

It is just too costly for most African countries to train a highly qualified workforce in specific professions.  Our professionals end up confronting diverse problems far from what they are particularly trained for. For example, we train highly qualified surgeons to treat populations dying of diarrhoea and Malaria, from poor sanitary conditions caused by reckless behaviour due to illiteracy. People are blocking drainages and causing constant flooding, are cutting trees leading to droughts and exhaustion of resources. Thus solving such problems may require particular experts in health, environment, medicine, engineering, agriculture and definitely good teachers. But if we cannot afford it then why shouldn’t we train a worker who can kill several birds with the same stone?

The world today is becoming so competitive that only the ‘jacks of all trades’ might compete in the job market. However, today’s labour market is fraught with many challenges. More people are crying foul of unemployment.  There are no jobs. Many ‘well qualified’ graduates are out there; are unemployed simply because yet cannot find the jobs they were trained to do. The economy is awash with job seekers, who despite having the skills, can’t be employed since they don’t have ‘right’ credentials for the job.  Employers are more interested in what a certificate shows rather than what one can actually do.  Thus we have even have PhD holders who can’t perform and still expect big salaries proportionate to the cost of their education and qualification benefits.  

There might be many other viewpoints and alternatives but the one we have right now is not working.Massively training all round citizens is not a magic bullet to enhancing performance. In fact it might result in inefficiency if not well implemented. However, let us not fall in trap of thinking that all areas of human endeavour and knowledge can be compartmentalised, which the idea behind specialisation.  Information and ideas from diverse fields may actually improve one’s work performance.

My argument is more focused on the individual capabilities and the pursuit of skills rather than institutional training and capacity building.  In my opinion, if education can’t give you the skills, go out there and find them rather than being restricted to one box and being overly dependent on a person in another box. We need more teachers who are astute in business and entrepreneurship, farmers who can take care of their basic health needs, doctors who can fix their cars and lawyers who have who can grow food.

Specialization may work in booming economies where quality institutional performance is guaranteed; and where problems are particular and also for inimitable services like psychology, rocket science and neurosurgery. Africa’s current problems are so entangled, our institutions are below par, and we are not about to launch any rockets soon. So, in today’s situation does this continent need specialisation ?  


Compromising development: The Language of Instruction dilemma in Tanzania.

Compromising development: The Language of Instruction dilemma in Tanzania..

Customs Union here we are…….

Customs Union here we are……..