Many African countries, such as Nigeria, which has the largest older population in Sub Saharan Africa, do not yet have a functional policy focused on older people. But even when countries have policies focused on older populations, the lack of coordination between government agencies along with insufficient budgets make implementing those policies a challenge. Cameroon and Nigeria, for example, have plans for training healthcare professionals for geriatric care, but experts have pointed out that such steps have not translated into action and that government support is "almost non-existent."
Contributory pensions, which are offered based on past earnings and contributions to pension schemes, are common in many African countries. But those social safety nets exclude people working in the informal sector, which accounts for 85 percent of employment in Africa. For the 6.3 percent of Sub Saharan Africa's working-age population that contributed to a pension scheme, the pay-out is often not enough to cover their living expenses because pension pay-outs are only a percentage of earnings before retirement and are not adequately adjusted for inflation.
In the absence of strong healthcare and social protection systems, the economic weight of caring for older people will increasingly fall on family members. A study in a peri-urban district of Ghana showed that 94 percent of the surveyed caregivers spend nearly half of their income on caregiving while 59 percent of caregivers said they had to give up one or more necessities to care for an older member of their family. With a large portion of their income going towards caregiving, families are left with little disposable income for saving.
As the Cameroonian proverb says, rain does not fall on one roof alone. If Africa continues to overlook its older population, the impact will not only hurt them, but the entire continent.