As we drove along the rugged, potholed, rust-colored dirt road in a remote area of the Central African Republic (CAR), we passed a scattering of huts. These areas are strikingly destitute, having been looted by various armed groups passing through.
Labor and Social Protection
Growth is picking up in South Africa, and this is good news after two years of declining incomes per capita. Observers are revising their forecasts, and optimists foresee economic growth to exceed 2% in next years. In recent months, several events have indeed improved South Africa’s economic outlook: the smooth transition in power, the authorities’ reaffirmed adherence to principles of good governance and debt stability, and the upward revision in national accounts, revealing higher economic activity in 2017 than previously measured.
Over the past decade, delivery systems for safety net programs in developing countries, particularly in Africa, have been largely paper-based. Social assistance projects in these settings often conjured pictures of tedious long lines to fill out paper registration and attendance forms, ink-based thumb printing to receive payments, manual verification of beneficiaries using a combination of different ID cards, as well as high levels of unintentional administrative errors, corruption and fraud.
The dramatic decrease in the cost of renewable energy technologies seen in recent years presents an unprecedented opportunity to improve our access to energy—and create employment in the process. This is especially true in Somaliland, where more than 80% of the local population of 3.5 million does not have access to modern electricity.
Somaliland’s small economy cannot afford large investments in the infrastructure needed for generating energy in the more traditional, 20th century sense. Running electricity lines over long distances to reach a geographically dispersed, off-grid population is simply uneconomical. Moreover, at US$0.85 per kilowatt, the cost of electricity in Somaliland is among the highest in the world.
Meet Ibrahim, 27, a 2015 Agronomy graduate from Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture, one of the leading agricultural colleges in Sub-Saharan Africa. You would expect him to be dressed in blue overalls, working on one of the largest plantations near Arusha, in Basutu or Ngarenairobi, where they grow barley and wheat.
However, Ibrahim sits in a comfy chair at his office in Morogoro, supervising three ICT graduates employed by his company. Indeed, it is becoming normal to major in chemistry at university only to practice “algebra”—as they say—in real life.
Politicians and economists often go to great lengths to scrutinize hundreds of pieces of data to identify complicated solutions, to the point of ignoring the obvious facts staring them right in the face! Although Côte d'Ivoire is devising complex strategies in a bid to achieve middle-economy status, it tends to overlook the role of women, who largely face deep inequalities that are difficult to ignore.
Over the next 10 years, Africa will have created about 122 million new jobs, says the World Bank Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa Report. Although this is a very exciting forecast, mass job availability alone won’t be enough to address the unemployment issues in Africa, especially when the new jobs are not proportional to the influx of unemployed youth. Furthermore, the pace at which these jobs are being created falls short of the rate of youth entering the job market per year. During the next ten years that it takes for Africa to finally create the new jobs, eleven million youth will have been entering the labor market each year.
Mtoto mzuri sana. Stella’s face lights up as I admire her baby, but she doesn’t reply. We are in the primary school compound in Chehembe, a village about 50 kilometers from Tanzania’s administrative capital, Dodoma. Stella is waiting to be registered in the country’s social safety net program, which is meant to cushion very poor households against sudden losses of income. And we are waiting to hear Stella’s story, to ask her how many children she has, and how she earns a living.
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