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Global Development Institute

motorbike tanzania

Youth, poverty and inequality in urban Tanzania

Promoting young people’s well-being through a greater understanding of their social and economic needs.

Urban contexts and youth populations are relatively unexplored territories of huge theoretical and policy relevance in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tanzania’s future is increasingly urban and predominantly young, propelling urban youth to the forefront of its development challenges.

Urbanisation, however, has been accompanied by high levels of poverty, insecurity and inequality. Little is known about what this means for young people as they seek to negotiate the path to adulthood.

In exploring the impact of rapidly expanding youth populations in the context of the urbanisation of poverty and its implications on the social and economic lives of Tanzania’s youth, this research breaks new ground in exploring new perspectives and new interpretations of what it means to be young and searching for livelihoods in the city amidst endemic poverty, inequality and limited institutional support.

It will identify the strategies youth deploy in a context of urban poverty for survival and advancement, and how these are influenced by age, gender and geographic location.

This work is being led by Dr Nicola Banks, ESRC Future Research Leader.

Key academic publications


Young people are overlooked in national policies and programmes, and those specific to young people are often based on inaccurate understandings. Knowledge and research on young people’s needs is therefore critical to more effective policy-making, programme design and targeting.

This research in Tanzania (2013-2016) builds upon a Ugandan study that was well-received by NGOs, UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and used by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development during revisions to Uganda’s National youth policy. Our research will seek similar impact, working with participatory youth development NGO, Tamasha Vijana, to produce a national report on urban youth.

Early findings were used to present young people’s visions for a poverty-free city in Tanzania at The University of Manchester’s Policy Week, exposing our work to a range of geographers, planners, and other social science practitioners.

Following on from her research, Nicola has started an innovative savings project with young motorcycle drivers in Arusha that aims both to take her findings to action and demonstrate a sustainable and adaptable model for ‘what works’ in youth development. The project will triple the incomes of group members and have a strong transformative impact on their lives, with benefits spreading to a new group once the first cycle is finished. More details can be found on the project - which won the 'outstanding contribution to social enterprise (emerging’) award at the 2016 Making a Difference Awards - in the blog.

Additional material

Publication on The University of Manchester’s and Brooks World Poverty Institute’s news sites and The Conversation.

Publication on The World Economic Forum blog aimed at private and public sector leaders.

A BBC World Service radio interview: World Business News with Russell Padmore, also broadcast across Africa on Uganda Radio 1, Nigeria Info 98, Wazobia FM and Cool FM (both in Nigeria).

Article on the Global Development Institute Blog.

During Manchester Policy Week 2014 Nicola, presented her research on young people’s vision for a poverty-free city in Tanzania to the Manchester Policy Week audience. 

Watch the live illustration of Nicola’s presentation with English and Kiswahili subtitles: