Friday, December 19, 2014

Africa needs to change

Africa accounts for a large share of the world’s people living in absolute poverty. The number of impoverished people has doubled since 1981. Africa’s share of the world’s poor rose from just below 20% to close to 25%. Nearly 50% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa live on less than US$ 1 a day today: the world’s highest rate of extreme poverty. In Liberia, nearly 60% of the population live on less than US$ 2 a day. In the Central African Republic, the figure is 50%. In contrast, North Africa has only 2.2% of the population living on less than US$ 1 a day, and 23% on less than US$2.

Africa is also the world’s second most inequitable region after Latin America. Inequalities have not diminished over time. In 2010, six out of the 10 most unequal countries worldwide were in Sub-Saharan Africa, and more specifically in Southern Africa. Africa's  economic growth is not inclusive or equitable.

Moreover, Africa's growth has largely been an urban phenomenon. Most Africans have low levels of education and limited skills. They often live in remote villages and depend on subsistence agriculture. These Africans lack access to water, electricity and health services. Maternal and child mortality is often high. The debilitating effects of hunger and malnutrition stalk the children that survive. Two-thirds of the under-five deaths in Africa are due to preventable causes, most of which are exacerbated by malnutrition. Undernourished children under five have an increased risk of death, anaemia, fever, respiratory infections and stunting. Research shows that children who are stunted before the age of five will have cognitive impairment and are highly likely to underachieve in school; repeat grades and drop out of school. The number of stunted children in Africa has increased from 45.7 million to 56.3 million between 1990 and 2011. A recent UN report, 'Cost of Hunger in Africa', reveals that child under-nutrition costs the Uganda government $899 million, equivalent to 5.6 per cent of GDP. This includes costs to the healthcare system, to education and losses in labour productivity.

It is very unlikely that the vast majority of Africans will experience the tangible benefits of the so-called “Africa Rising” phenomenon. Under a business-as-usual growth scenario, the gulf between the rich and the poor will only widen. What is more disconcerting is that the horrifying health, nutrition and education outcomes will persist.

No comments: