With Pact's support, a local partner builds youth civic engagement in Tanzania

February 1, 2023
The staff of ZAFAYCO, a youth-led organization based in Zanzibar, Tanzania. At mid-front is Executive Director Abdalla Abeid. Credit: Aidan Tarimo/Pact.

Like elsewhere in Africa, the youth of Zanzibar comprise a significant segment of the population, with 35% of the population aged 15 to 35 years. These youth face serious challenges, including unemployment, poverty and limited participation in governance and political processes, where they are considered in electioneering but excluded in decision-making. Even so, youth remain the most energetic and vibrant force to deliver socio-economic and political development for Tanzania’s future.

Addressing youth challenges in the isles, Zanzibar Fighting Against Youth Challenges Organization (ZAFAYCO) is at the forefront as a youth-led civil society organization. ZAFAYCO was established in 2011 and thrives on empowering youth through civic and economic empowerment, health-related services and environmental sustainability. Through the Data-Driven Advocacy (DDA) project, Pact has been working with the ZAFAYCO as a subgrantee and participant in capacity development initiatives since 2019.

“Up to 80% of our achievements as an organization are credited to the capacity development we got from the DDA project through Pact,” says Abdalla Abeid, ZAFAYCO’s executive director.

The capacity development offered to ZAFAYCO included resource mobilization and proposal development, project and financial management strengthening, managing organizational performance, leadership, governance, business sustainability and adaptive management. With strong systems and structure, ZAFAYCO has expanded its grant portfolio significantly, from about USD $28,000 in 2019 to $565,000 in 2022-23. Its recent funders have included the Swiss Embassy, the European Union, the Holland Embassy, Internews, the World Bank, ForumCiv, the National Endowment for Democracy, and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Development in Africa (EISA).

“Every time we have assessors for pre-award assessment, they are always surprised to find that we meet the required threshold,” Abdalla says. “This has instilled confidence in ourselves and trust in different funding agencies that we have what it takes to comply and manage grants.”

ZAFAYCO’s finance manager, Seif Omar, names other significant achievements, including winning a grant from EISA to deploy observers for the 2020 election. At the end of this grant, EISA applauded ZAFAYCO as one of its best African subgrantees for outstanding financial records and compliance. In this election, ZAFAYCO had more observers than any other monitoring body, and 90% of those observers were youth.

Through the Human Rights Desks, ZAFAYCO has entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), where they work together to raise awareness of human rights and good governance among youth.

“Working with government agencies allows youth to access the correct information and engage directly with officials. It helps build trust and understanding; this is key in building and keeping the peace,” says Aziza Ismail, ZAFAYCO’s monitoring and evaluation officer.

In 2019 and 2020, ZAFAYCO won two awards from DDA, totaling TZS 64 million (about $28,000). The first grant was used to advocate for the creation of the Youth Economic Empowerment Fund, which aimed to establish a coordinated mechanism for supporting youth economic empowerment. The three years of advocacy significantly contributed to enacting the Zanzibar Economic Empowerment Act No. 2 of 2022. Among other things, the law establishes the agency responsible for coordinating economic empowerment programs and guaranteeing credits for entrepreneurs. It also establishes the Zanzibar Economic Empowerment Fund, to boost and create employment. The second grant supported the establishment of the Human Rights Desk for monitoring human rights violations in the post-2020 election, which was marred with gross irregularities.

DDA is a USAID-funded project that seeks to improve and sustain the ability of Tanzanian civil society organizations to influence policy on rights issues through the strategic use of better data and information. Freedom House, in partnership with Pact, implements the project.