Pursue social welfare services, researchers urge entrepreneurs

The call was made at a stakeholder dissemination workshop in Dar es Salaam over the weekend by a team of researchers from Mzumbe University led by Dr Godbertha Kinyondo, which was attended by over 70 micro -entrepreneurs from the districts of Magomeni, Mburahati, Ndugombi, Tandale and Manzese.

The recommendations are the result of research conducted from 2017 to 2021 in Tanzania and Kenya, which was conducted by Mzumbe University in collaboration with the University of Nairobi and Roskilde University in Denmark. It was funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

The “Informal Sector and Social Protection” research focused on informal sector workers in construction, transport and micro-entrepreneurs in the cities of Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Nairobi and Kisumu as a case study .

The event was a continuation of the research follow-up workshops where university professors reported what they had observed during the four years of research work.

“Members of the informal sector should not hesitate to access these services. Many think that it is difficult and that such programs do not cater to the informal sectors…this is a misconception,” remarked Dr Kinyondo.

She said that although there are some challenges with regard to the informal sector, many pension institutions/funds have in recent years innovative ways of accommodating them through specialized schemes.

A total of 1,385 informal workers: commuter bus workers (daladala drivers and conductors), motorcycle drivers (Bodaboda), petty traders (machingas), food vendors without a permanent place to sell their products, and construction workers ( non-entrepreneurs) have been involved in Dar es Salaam and Dodoma.

The research revealed that the majority of them, 82%, are not registered with social insurance and do not believe they can benefit from it. But they complained about bureaucracy and the lack of adequate services for those who have access to them.

By comparison, 34 percent of workers in Kenya were enrolled in social insurance schemes and pension funds, while in Tanzania only 18 percent were enrolled.

“We are here to inform them that they can access and benefit from these services,” said Dr Kinyondo.

As part of ongoing outreach and research deliverables, the Mzumbe University team also created reflective coats with a list of pension funds, health insurance bodies, training institutions and of financial institutions with their respective contacts displayed on the back of the coats.

Mzumbe intends to distribute the reflectors to at least 2,000 members of the informal sector, mainly in selected areas of Dar es Salaam and Dodoma regions.

The aim is to make social protection services known to a wider audience, including non-informal workers. Over 300 coats have already been distributed.

Researchers have met bikers in the past bodaboda’ drivers and commuter buses or commonly known as ‘daladala’ workers.

They plan to meet construction workers in similar broadcast workshops. According to Dr. Kinyondo, Mzumbe University wants to implement its research for the benefit of the country.

“It’s not just about publishing research papers. These are real results for the greater benefit of all,” she said.

From the start of the study, it involved relevant stakeholders such as relevant ministries, police forces, pension funds, leaders of informal sector associations and training institutions, including the Vocational Training (VETA), among others, to chart a holistic course on how to improve social protection services for workers in the informal sector.

Aloyce Gervas, doctoral student, also from the same university, the research aimed to find out if the members of the studied sectors are pensioned, if they benefit from social protection, if they receive regular training to improve their services and products and s there is an institutional system to support these groups.

The results of a four-year research study recommended the adoption of policies and regulations that encompass and respond to the different needs of an ever-growing informal sector.

The researcher said that to further improve overall enrollment in formal social protection schemes, the government needs to ensure appropriate social benefits, create understandable information and establish convenient enrollment for informal workers. In addition, motivational efforts should be imposed through education and knowledge sharing on workers in the informal sector.

Social protection schemes for informal workers need to take into account the irregularity of earnings within this group.

Asha Omari Hassan, a small businesswoman from Mburahati market, thanked Mzumbe University for enlightening entrepreneurs about the services they can get from different pension funds in Tanzania. “I was in the dark…but now I’m enlightened,” said a cheerful Asha.

Amani Mwinyimvua, Deputy General Secretary of the Tanzania Road Transport Workers Union (TAROTU) urged union members in the country to always take advantage of networking with other stakeholders with the aim of learning and taking advantage of opportunities.

He said: “It is through such engagements that researchers and policy makers learn about our challenges, study them and solve them.”

Some of the notable results of the four-year research are the publication of several journal articles, the book “Social Protection and Informal Workers in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lived Realities and Associational Experiences from Tanzania and Kenya” and the production of two Ph.D. , one in each country.

Joel C. Hicks