Africa Region Offers Economic Promise — If We Help Children

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

An analysis published earlier this year by The Economist finds that in the decade leading up to 2010, six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa. If conditions hold over the next five years, the International Monetary Fund forecasts that African countries are poised to occupy seven of those top-10 economic hot spots, outpacing the average Asian nation economy.

Entrepreneurial qualities have propelled many African countries forward in the quest for self-improvement. As Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remarked last fall, “Africa is taking hold of its own destiny.” She cited country-led poverty-reduction programs as one of the centerpiece efforts. “Our civil society organizations are vigorous,” she affirmed.

Children Africa poverty economy well-beingAs ChildFund has worked in various African countries through the decades, we have been continually inspired by the strong spirit of community, cooperation and parents’ unyielding desire for their children to have a better life.

Progress on nutrition, immunization and reduced infant mortality in several African countries is encouraging, yet the release of The African Report on Child Well-Being 2011: Budgeting for Children reveals much more work ahead.

The report is the work of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), which developed the Child Friendliness Index to measure governments’ commitment to children and their performance in attaining child well-being. The index identified budget investments in children’s issues as a critical component, concluding that the allocation of sufficient budget for children is intrinsically linked to the realization of their rights.

ACPF’s 2011 report reviewed the budget performance of 52 African governments between 2006-2008, focusing on spending in sectors that most directly impact children, such as health, education, early childhood development and social protection.

Despite lower economic status than some of their neighbors, countries such as Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda and Tanzania scored high on the budgeting index, along with Gabon, Senegal, Tunisia, Seychelles, Algeria, Cape Verde and South Africa. At the opposite end, the low performers include Sudan, Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. These countries scored low due to lower levels of investment in sectors benefiting children, the decline of these allocations over the years and relatively high military expenditure.

“The research clearly shows that the sheer wealth of a country does not determine the level of commitment to children,” said ACPF Executive Director David Mugawe. “Rather, it is a case of political will being translated into action and prioritizing children in national budgets.”

The report reaffirms what ChildFund has long known – for a country to truly succeed, an investment must be made in its children. ChildFund believes that the well-being of all children leads to the well-being of the world.

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