From 2010, HelpAge International and its network members in Zanzibar scaled up advocacy, engagement and technical support to government ministries and departments to develop a universal pension a reality. These efforts led the government to commit to a universal pension and eventually the formulation of a Universal Pension Policy and its introduction to all people 70 and over in 2016.

Introducing a universal pension to Zanzibar


(c) Kate Holt/Age International

A reliable income gives older people in Zanzibar the opportunity to develop livelihoods

In older age, as health challenges limit people’s ability to work, fewer women and men can secure a reliable, sufficient income to ensure they meet their day-to-day needs in later life. Many older people, particularly those who are poorer, must remain economically active to get by as they have limited options for income. Work in older age is mainly in the informal sector, which tends to provide lower and more volatile incomes. Without systems to ensure income security as people age, many older people in Zanzibar and across the world fall into poverty.

How did we improve social protection in Zanzibar?

To help ease the unpredictable and insufficient income older people in Zanzibar face, we worked with global network member Jumuiya ya Wastaafu Zanzibar (JUWAZA) to campaign for a pension.
Beginning in 2008, HelpAge International began to build alliances with bodies such as the International Labour Organization, the Africa Development Bank, the World Bank and other UN agencies to help push the Zanzibar Government to adopt social protection standards and create political buy-in for a pension.
From 2010, with publication of a study on the technical and fiscal feasibility of a universal pension, HelpAge International and its network members scaled up its advocacy and provided technical support to Government ministries and departments to make the pension a reality.

What did we achieve?

Zanzibar’s universal pension was launched for all people aged 70 and over in April 2016, thanks to the combined efforts of HelpAge International and its network member in Zanzibar. The first payment reached 21,750 people in all 11 districts. As of April 2019, this figure had grown to 27,843.
A reliable income through a universal pension has improved the food security of older people and their access to basic goods. Older people are much more likely to eat more than one meal a day.
As Zanzibar’s population ages and the number of people receiving the pension increases in the next few decades, greater cashflow among older people could have a significant positive impact on the archipelago’s economy.
We are now advocating for an act of parliament to govern the Zanzibar Universal Pension, which guarantee the sustainability of the scheme as at present it is considered politically motivated. In April 2019, HelpAge International and its network member in Zanzibar gave their input into a Elder Affairs Bill during a national stakeholders’ meeting. The ministry responsible is planning to have the bill in place before end of 2019, which will provide a comprehensive legal framework for realising older people’s rights in Zanzibar, including the universal pension.  It is hoped that the pension’s coverage can be expanded to people aged 65 and over, although the Government has made no concrete commitment as yet.
HelpAge and its network members will also support the Tanzania Social Protection Network and Tanzania Older People’s Platform to use the Zanzibar universal pension as a best practice example when advocating for its adoption on the mainland.

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