Making A Difference
For the last decade, Africa has seen unprecedented prosperity. The continent is at a crucial moment where, for this prosperity to continue, and to ensure benefit for all, the future will be decided by the degree to which the inequities faced by youth, particularly girls, are addressed in advancing health and well-being, educational attainment and economic prospects. Over the next 30 years, Africa is set to account for the largest population growth on the planet. With this growth, Africa will continue to have the world’s youngest population – if trends continue as they have, over 400 million young people will live in Africa. Although overall, there have been increases in lower secondary school attainment, this is not translating into economic opportunities for youth, nor has this increase been even across populations. Young girls fair worse than their male counterparts, where for every 100 boys in Sub-Saharan Africa, 83 girls are enrolled in secondary school. This is compounded for girls who live in rural areas and/or who have disabilities. If trends continue, girls from the poorest families in Sub-Saharan Africa will achieve universal lower secondary completion in 2111, 64 years after boys from the richest families.
Increasing equity in secondary education attainment will require improving the quality of education, skills training and health and safety, as well as promoting sustainable use of environmental resources. To create more, and better jobs for all, economic transformations are necessary to create equitable, diversified, productivity-driven and broad-based growth. This means modernizing agricultural production, investing in more productive sectors or activities beyond raw materials production and manufacturing, investing in foundational services and product like access to credit and new technologies like new-and-improved seed varieties, and investing in entrepreneurs who value social justice and equity. Roughly 22% of Africa’s working-age population are starting new businesses, the highest rate in the world. If investments are made in businesses focused on equity, modernization and inclusive growth, all Africans will benefit.
Ultimately, women and youth must be engaged in the process to equitably see increases in health, educational attainment, as well as economic growth and prosperity. For if they are, such investments have the potential to raise the status of women and youth, and create a world where everyone has the power and ability to control their own destinies.