Tanzania: Universal Water Supply to Generate 5.6tri/

PROVIDING universal access to water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) could reduce Tanzania’s economic losses by 1.9 billion US dollars (about 4.4tri/-) per year by 2030.

The country could potentially generate more than 2.4 billion US dollars (about 5.6tri/-) each year in savings on excess medical costs and lost productivity due to inadequate access, according to a new World Bank report.

The just published 18th edition of the Tanzania Economic Update: Clean Water, Bright Future: The Transformative Impact of Investing in WASH shows that while the country has made significant progress in recent years in improving access to WASH services, only 61 per cent of households have access to basic water supply, 32 per cent to basic sanitation, and 48 per cent to basic hygiene (per the Sustainable Development Goals’ definitions).

More than nine per cent of the population continues to practice open defecation which entails serious health risks. In addition, rural areas lag behind urban centres in all dimensions of WASH.

“For Tanzania to ensure universal WASH access, considerable upfront investment is required to avoid the devastating consequences of inadequate services,” said Nathan Belete, World Bank Country Director.

“Achieving WASH goals can support the jobs’ agenda while mitigating the adverse effects on workforce productivity and advance Tanzania’s objectives for inclusive growth and poverty reduction.”

Death and disease are the most immediate consequences of inadequate WASH services- being responsible for 31,000 deaths (10 per cent of preventable deaths) – and cost the economy more than 2.4 billion US dollars each year in excess medical costs and lost productivity.

The heaviest toll is being borne by women, children, and the poor and vulnerable. For example, WASH-related illnesses lessen the educational attainment of students and impair the cognitive development of children.

To achieve and sustain universal WASH access, the report recommends a combination of policy measures, institutional capacity building, and new financial arrangements at the national, subnational, and community levels.

It calls for prioritising the cross-cutting impact of WASH on the government’s larger policy agenda and urges policymakers across sectors to advocate for WASH investments and develop collaborative solutions to address their shared challenges.

“The implementation of Tanzania’s third Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) requires an estimated 6.5 billion US dollars in total,” said Ruth Kennedy-Walker, World Bank Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist and report co-author.

“On the other hand, providing near universal WASH access would cost the government just $16 per capita per year, which is less than half the $38 per capita that inadequate WASH services cost Tanzania each year. The WSDP-3 implementation therefore would generate benefits equal to its initial investment of $4.1 billion, for WASH related activities under the programme, within five years.”

On the overall economy, the 18th Tanzania Economic Update shows that strong macro fundamentals allowed Tanzania to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic in good shape, though economic recovery has been relatively modest due to strong headwinds created by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, tightening global financial conditions, and global economic slow-down. For 2022, GDP growth was 4.6 per cent, marginally higher than 4.3 per cent growth in 2021. The economic recovery in 2022 nevertheless remains broad based with most sectors rebounding to pre-Covid-19 activity levels.

Headline inflation continued to edge up during 2022 as a result of rising international commodity prices and severe drought, reaching 4.2 per cent in the first nine months of 2022 compared to 3.5 per cent in the same period the previous year. This is concerning as food makes up about thirty per cent of the consumer price basket.