Zanzibar’s Pioneering Universal Social Pension Scheme Transforms Older People’s Lives


Zanzibar’s Universal Social Pension (ZUPS) scheme has improved the lives of older people in Zanzibar, northwest Tanzania, and made a positive impact on their wider households, according to a new report released in December 2019.
The Impact Evaluation of the Zanzibar Universal Pension Scheme delivers a positive assessment on how east Africa’s first ever universal pension scheme, which entitles all Zanzibari residents aged 70 and over to a monthly social pension, has positively affected the lives of its recipients. 
Produced by the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar and the Economic and the Social Research Foundation (ESRF) the report delivers a positive assessment of the impact the social pension is having on older people and their households in Zanzibar. 
“The Zanzibar government should be congratulated for the impact this pioneering pension has had on the lives of its older citizens. This report provides clear evidence of an initiative which has helped deliver meaningful improvement to older people in Zanzibar,” said Smart Daniel, Country Director HelpAge International, Tanzania.
The evaluation found that the secure income provided by the pension had a very positive effect on beneficiaries’ households, enabling them to increase their spending on food, health and education. Older people found it easy to register for the pension, and said the payments were timely and carried out efficiently. 
“The evaluation reveals that the ZUPS has for the first time, granted a secure monthly income to its recipients which has enabled them to enjoy improved wellbeing,” said Florian Juergens, the global social protection advisor at HelpAge International.
Older people who participated in discussion groups in Pemba and Unguja highlighted that the ZUPS was a critical source of income for them because of its reliability and the fact that it is paid in cash.
“The evaluation of the ZUPS confirms that Universal Social Pensions are feasible policy options for governments and effective in ensuring income security for all people in older age, even where there are high-levels of poverty,” said Florian Juergens.
“The report confirms that even modest pensions can lead to important improvements in people lives. Further improvements, such as reducing the eligibility age and increasing the benefit level, have the potential to lead to even more positive changes for older people in Zanzibar.” Florian added.
Qualitative evidence featured in the report shows that the ZUPS has had a positive impact on its beneficiaries’ wellbeing. Pension recipients spoke about how the pension had given them a sense of dignity and independence, which was confirmed by Shehas (local government officials) and health workers.
Beneficiaries were largely very satisfied with the way the Scheme had been implemented by the Ministry of Empowerment, Social Welfare, Youth, Women and Children with the support of local Shehias. 
The ZUPS was the first of its kind in east Africa and has since been followed by the establishment of a universal social pension in Kenya. Uganda is also expanding its Senior Citizen Grant to achieve universal coverage. Other countries in the region are seriously considering following suit, with the Malawian Parliament debating a universal social pension bill and the Zimbabwean government is launching a feasibility study.
Download the full report here.