The World Bank has recently accorded a credit of U.S. $255 Million to an average of 18 local authorities in Tanzania to assist them improve financial management and strengthen their ability to deliver urban services to over 2.6 million Tanzanians. Despite Tanzania’s stable macroeconomic performance, poverty and underdevelopment is still a problem.
The urban local governments in to benefit from this loan include municipal councils of Tabora, Morogoro, Shinyanga, Sumbawanga, Moshi, Musoma, Songea, Singida, Bukoba, Lindi and Iringa. The urban councils include Kibaha, Geita, Babati, Korogwe, Mpanda, Njombe and Bariadi. According to East African Business Week, roughly six per cent of the country’s total population of 42 million people live in these areas.
While urban areas in Tanzania have doubled the rate of growth in rural areas, investments in urban infrastructure have not met the expectations of the growing population, resulting to poor urban infrastructure and precarious service delivery.
According to the World Bank, the Urban Local Government Strengthening Program (ULGSP) will utilise these funds known as Program-for-Results (P for R) that directly links disbursement of funds to verified development results.
The program is supposed to be utilised for various urban infrastructural development services, including improvement in waste management, construction of small bridges, installation of street lights, among others, as availed by the World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Mr Philippe Dongier to East African Business Week .
‘The capacity-building component will support urban planning, revenue mobilization, strengthening of procurement practices and improved management of human resources,’ added the World Bank top executive.
East African Business Week reveals that, Tanzania is growing rapidly and 25% of Tanzanians are already living in urban areas, a number that is expected to rise to over 40% of the country’s population by 2030.
‘Urban areas will play an increasingly important role in driving economic growth and meeting poverty reduction targets. Improving access to services in urban areas is critical for improving the quality of life of ordinary Tanzanian citizens and reducing poverty,’ availed World Bank Country Director for Tanzania.
Under the World Bank project, the concerned urban local government authorities will be assessed annually on progress made across a set of institutional and infrastructure implementation indicators. The World Bank executive purports that funds will only be disbursed once results are verified.
The task team Leader of the project, Barjor Mehta alluded that the program is supposed to decentralize responsibilities to the concerned cities including procurement and contract management.
“The Bank will support the implementation of the program to strengthen institutional systems and improve local governance’. According to Mehta , ‘In this way, the projects seek to build capacity via ‘learning-by-doing’ for urban infrastructure development.’
The new program is intended to address these problems in the overall context of the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction (MKUKUTA II), Tanzania’s decentralization policy, and two of four key fundamentals of the Government’s Vision 2025, namely; the provision of infrastructure and strengthening and establishing well-functioning institutions and markets.
Such programs from the World Bank may look very promising and alluring, especially with the involvement of colossal amounts of funds, but how sustainable are they. For several years the World Bank has been disbursing funds to local governments in Africa, but local collectivities remain poor, especially as these funds have been siphoned and stashed in foreign bank accounts by both central government authorities and local authorities themselves.
In as much as the intentions of the World Bank are good, such intentions are ill placed because the tendency for such a project to improve on the lives of Tanzanians is minimal. Aid especially to municipal executives who are not well trained to manage such funds is a catastrophy to developmental intentions and instead fans corruption.
If the World Bank wants to improve the lives of Tanzanians in particular and African in general, then first of all the capacity of municipal executives, including elected officials like mayors, need to be improved. Most of these officials do not have minimal educational and professional perquisites to manage such funds. There is also a need to curb barriers stopping local collectivities to be involved in business opportunities across the boarders in the wake of globalisation. Twining of local municipalities across the globe, need to be encouraged. These are concrete and sustainable measures that can impact on the lives of local communities in Tanzania and Africa as a whole, rather than World Bank financial assistance.