Tanzania meets criteria for graduation from LDCs status ‘for the first time’

By Guardian Reporter , The Guardian
Published at 12:10 PM May 20 2024
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.
Photo: File
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.

TANZANIA has for the first time this year met criteria for graduation from the status of United Nations (UN) least developed countries (LDCs) since the establishment of the LDC category in 1971.

At that time, Tanzania was categorised as a LDC and was one of the 25 initial LDCs. Tanzania will be assessed again during a triennial review in 2027 by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), according to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) report of May 2024.

“The CDP is mandated to make recommendations to ECOSOC on countries that qualify to be added to the LDC category and those that are candidates for graduation therefrom. The recommendations are based on analyses undertaken every three years at triennial reviews of the LDC category,” says the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

The DESA also says that CDP does the following: 1) monitors the development progress of LDCs that are graduating and of countries that have graduated from the category, 2) conducts reviews of the LDC identification criteria, 3) reviews the application of the LDC category by the UN development system, and 4) undertakes analytical studies on LDC issues.

The UN defines LDCs as low-income countries suffering from structural impediments to sustainable development. “Measures in favour of LDCs include exclusive access to specific international support in the areas of trade, development assistance, and general support.”

The report says if Tanzania meets the criteria again after the next review in 2027, it could be recommended for graduation after the endorsement of the recommendation by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN General Assembly and after a preparatory period.

During its triennial review of the list of LDCs in New York on March 4-8, 2024 the CDP found that “Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania had fulfilled the criteria for graduation for the first time. These countries will be considered for graduation at the next triennial review in 2027,” says the 2024 ECOSOCO report. 

Until May this year, 45 countries worldwide, including Tanzania, are categorised as LDCs. In the East African Community (EAC) the list of LDCs includes Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

A World Trade Organisation (WTO) report of 2020 titled “Trade impacts of LDC graduation” suggests that graduation from the United Nations (UN) LDC category “is seen as an important milestone in the development path of each LDC.” According to the report, graduation demonstrates strong performance in key macroeconomic indicators and broad-based social developments. “At the same time, the phasing-out of benefits associated with the LDC status could present challenges for graduating LDC governments to integrate into the global economy.”

Criteria for graduation from LDC status, according to the UN, include 1) an income criterion, based on a three-year average estimate of the gross national income (GNI) per capita in US dollars, using conversion factors based on the World Bank Atlas methodology. For the 2024 triennial review, the threshold for inclusion is set at $1,088 or less, while the threshold for graduation is set at $1,306 or more.

A human assets index (HAI), consisting of a health sub-index and an education sub-index. The health sub-index has three indicators: under-five mortality rate, maternal mortality ratio, and prevalence of stunting. 

The education sub-index has three indicators: lower secondary school completion rate, the adult literacy rate, and gender parity index for lower secondary school completion. The thresholds for inclusion and graduation have been set at 60 or below and 66 or above, respectively, for the 2024 triennial review.

An economic and environmental vulnerability index (EVI), consisting of two sub-indices: economic vulnerability and environmental vulnerability. The economic vulnerability sub-index has four indicators: a share of agriculture, forestry and fishing in gross domestic product, remoteness and land-lockedness, merchandise export concentration, and instability of exports of goods and services.

The environmental vulnerability sub-index has four indicators: a share of population in low elevated coastal zones, a share of the population living in dry lands, instability of agricultural production, and victims of disasters. The thresholds for inclusion and graduation have been set at 36 or above and 32 or below, respectively, for the 2024 triennial review.

In 2021, 46 countries were designated by the UN as LDCs. However, in 2023 Bhutan graduated from the LDC status and 2024 Sao Tome and Principe graduates this year as the UN General Assembly has issued a resolution on its graduation. Countries which previously were in the graduation process, but no longer meet the graduation criteria are Angola, Timor-Leste and Zambia.

 “The LDC category comprises the most disadvantaged of the developing countries, which comprise about 14 per cent of the world’s population, but account for less than 1.3 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and for about 1 per cent of global trade.” The majority of LDCs are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) data of 2021.

The UN General Assembly formally endorsed the list of 25 LDCs in 1971 in its Resolution 2768 (XXVI), as a result of the acknowledgement by the international community that special support measures were needed to assist the least developed among the developing countries. It requested the Committee for Development Planning to review and refine the criteria used for identification. It also requested international organisations within the UN system to take into account the special needs of LDCs when formulating their programmes of activities.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the initial list of LDCs comprised 25 countries. Then, 28 other countries were added to the list in subsequent years, as countries gained independence and faced severe development challenges—in some cases compounded by the effects of independence, war and conflict—and/or faced a sustained deterioration of economic conditions.

By Telesphor Magobe