Governance and Child Wellbeing in Africa: A Review

Theme:
  • Child Wellbeing
  • Child Rights Governance
Pages: 80
Year of Publication: 2009
Country: Africa

Africa is in the midst of transformation, beginning to forge a positive reputation from the ashes of its gloomy past. The cradle of mankind is reclaiming its rightful place in the world. Thanks to laudable improvements in governance and the increasingly assertive role of pan-African and regional organisations, conflict has declined considerably in many countries on the continent; sounds of playful children fill Africa’s streets again as peace slowly returns to previously war-torn nations.

On the economic front, while growth was on average below 2 percent in sub-Saharan Africa from 1975 to 1994, it has accelerated since the mid-1990s: GDP per capita in the sub-Saharan region grew consecutively each year from 2000 to 2005. In 2006, for the fourth consecutive year, Africa achieved 5.5 percent economic growth as measured by GDP per capita – well above the long-term trend.  African GDP growth was projected to jump to 6.2 percent in 2007, and 6.9 percent in 2008 (though the global economic downturn at time of writing is likely to slow this momentum).

Despite impressive economic growth, however, levels of poverty and inequality have been on the rise throughout the continent.  Increasing ‘pauperisation’ of women and children and the failure to link economic growth with employment generation are some of the conditions that are aggravating this trend. Of the 969 million Africans living on less than US$ 1 a day in 2004, 17 percent were ultra poor, three quarters were living in sub-Saharan Africa, and the large majority were women. In guinea-Bissau, for example, women generally earn about half the income of men, and are only half as likely to be able to read or write.  Around the world, children are also disproportionately represented among the poor.  At least 600 million children under the age of 18 struggle to survive on less than $1 a day.

In response, African states have started to appreciate the need for poverty reduction and development frameworks that aim to reduce inequalities. The Declaration on employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa by the heads of state and governments of the African Union emphasised the urgency of employment creation for sustainable poverty alleviation and improvement of the living conditions of the people.  Many countries have also taken the first crucial steps towards reducing poverty by preparing poverty reduction strategy plans (PRSPs) that put emphasis on basic social services. Others, like South Africa, have put concrete programmes in place to reach out to poor children through cash grants. Countries with improved economic performance, like Mauritius, are spending more to reduce inequality. 

In spite of these encouraging macro-level developments, a confluence of other factors have led to a collapse of Africa’s systems of basic service delivery. These factors include harsh and ineffective policies, poor planning, corruption, instability, state neglect, chronic under-investment, poor infrastructure, and the ‘brain drain’ that sees qualified and capable personnel leaving African countries for better prospects elsewhere.

Language: English
Published by: African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)
Author: Shimelis Tsegaye
Located in: Publications
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