Beside the great Lake Kivu, beneath the shadow of an enormous volcano, the Rwanda-DRC border divides the neighboring cities of Gisenyi and Goma. As the day begins, the predominant impression is one of movement, as people walk in either direction through the customs checkpoint, carrying giant bunches of green banana, stacks of nesting plastic chairs, anything that is tradable. They form an unbroken stream of humanity crossing to and fro, the tall border signboards towering overhead.
In country after country in Sub-Saharan Africa, new discoveries of oil, natural gas and mineral deposits have been making headlines every other week it seems. When Ghana’s Jubilee oil field hits peak production in 2013, it will produce 120,000 barrels a day. Uganda’s Lake Albert Rift Basin fields could potentially produce even greater quantities. Billions of dollars a year could flow into Mozambique and Tanzania thanks to natural gas findings. And in Sierra Leone, mining iron ore in Tonkolili could boost GDP by a remarkable 25 percent in 2012.
My strong hope is that all the people living in these resource-rich African countries also get to share in this new oil and mineral wealth. So far, with one of few exceptions being Botswana, natural resources haven’t always improved the lives of people and their families. From what I see on my constant travels to the continent, economic growth in most resource-rich countries is not automatically translating into better health, education, and other key services for poor people.
Many resource-rich countries tend to gravitate towards the bottom of the global Human Development Index, which is a composite measure of life expectancy, education and income.
One strikingly effective way to make sure that all people, especially the poorest, share in the new minerals prosperity is through safety nets and social protection programs. These are designed to protect vulnerable families and promote job opportunities among poor people who are able to work. This in turn makes communities stronger and more secure, while reducing painful inequalities between people.
Social protection programs are already central to poverty-fighting, higher growth national strategies across Africa, and have played a significant role reducing chronic poverty and helping families become more resilient in the face of setbacks such as unemployment, sudden illness, or natural disasters such as droughts or floods. These programs have also allowed families to invest in more livestock or grow more food, and increase their earnings.
- Labor and Social Protection
- Social Development
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- social safety nets
- social protection
- Human Development Index
- cash transfers
Jean J. De St Antoine and Kanako Yamashita-Allen are co-authors of this post.
During a recent visit to Maseru, we met with staff at the 425-bed Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital which opened in October 2011 and at one of three primary care clinics that have been running since 2010 as part of a Ministry of Health (MOH)--led public private partnership (PPP). The PPP aims to facilitate access to quality health services in a poor country.
Mamtoai puts her blue token key into the slot of the standpost and out flows water.
It is an early spring morning in October and the sun shines brightly in Lower Ha Thetsane, an area of Maseru, Lesotho, where Mamtoai lives. Other women and young kids are busy chatting as they wait for their turn to collect water. Mamtoai fills up her 20-liter plastic container, snaps the lid tight and raises it up in the air to carry the heavy load on the crown of her head.
The installation of pre-paid water standposts that provide piped and treated water in Ha Thetsane is recent. The distance to a communal tap, installed long ago when the area was a rural settlement, used to be far longer. If pipes or taps were broken, water would be lost and turn the earth floor into mud. The cost of water tanked by local entrepreneurs to these peripheral areas could vary hugely - invariably much higher than the formal regulated water system. To expand water distribution, Lesotho’s largest utility the Water and Sewerage Company WASCO has installed water standposts into areas like Ha Thetsane.
Thousands of Basotho joined HM King Letsie III last Friday at the inauguration of a state-of-the-art hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. The new hospital, together with its three filter clinics, is bringing modern, high-quality health care to about half a million people—or a quarter of Lesotho’s population—living in Maseru district, and also serving the country as a revamped national referral and teaching hospital.
Prime Minister Mosisili reminded the audience of Lesotho’s history as a British protectorate. “The protectors gave the country its first national hospital in 1957 and named it Queen Elizabeth II after their Queen,” the PM said. “The new hospital is ours and we named it after our Queen, ’Mamohato.”
Why is this hospital so important? It symbolizes a fundamental change in publicly-funded health services in Lesotho. The transformation in the country's health sector is supported by a unique partnership between the government and the private sector that is truly exciting as Africa looks for ways to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to saving mothers and children and fighting HIV/AIDS.