Infrastructure, jobs, good governance: Bringing Africans’ priorities to the G20 table

By Michael Bratton, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies at Michigan State University and senior adviser to Afrobarometer, and E. Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of Afrobarometer and the Ghana Center for Democratic Development

 

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Beyond the limelight and the headlines, the recent Group of 20 (G20) summit accomplished an important piece of business by launching the Compact with Africa. The next step is crucial: negotiating the priorities that the compact will address.

One key concept is that the compact is with – rather than for – Africa, implying that it will rely on true partnerships to pursue mutually agreed-upon goals.

With its contribution to a “20 Solutions” document presented to the G20 by a consortium of think tanks, the pan-African research network Afrobarometer is working to ensure that the compact will take into account what ordinary Africans say they want and need.

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Girls robbed of their childhood in the Sahel

By Laurent Bossard, Director, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

In Mali, Niger and Chad, 40% of children under five suffer from stunting. These children do not receive enough nutrients. Their bodies — their brains, bones and muscles — do not get enough calcium, iron or zinc or enough vitamins (A, B2, B12 etc.), so they do not have enough energy to grow and develop. Many of these children will suffer from chronic diseases and will have cognitive problems — so they won’t be able to go to school for long, if at all. As adults, they will have little chance to flourish and, secondarily, will have low economic productivity. Many will also die very young, often before turning five.

In these countries, at least 100 children out of every thousand die before reaching the age of five. That’s 10 times more than in Sri Lanka, 20 times more than in Canada and 50 times more than in Luxembourg. Why are these children dying and why are they doomed to a hopeless future?  Continue reading

Human development and the 2030 Agenda: Effecting positive change in people’s lives

By Selim Jahan, Director, Human Development Report Office, UNDP

humandevThis September marked the first anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we shift into the implementation phase, increasingly I am asked: “How is the concept of human development linked to the 2030 Agenda? How is it relevant to the achievement of the new goals?”

The UN Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals already mirrored the basic principles of human development – expanding human capabilities by addressing basic human deprivations (ending extreme poverty and hunger, promoting good health and education, etc.).
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Speeding ahead with a rear-view vision: the looming crisis of air pollution in Africa

By Dr Rana Roy, Consulting Economist, author of The Cost of Air Pollution in Africa, OECD Development Centre Working Papers, 2016

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WHO Global map of modelled annual median concentration of PM2.5

Africa is speeding toward a new crisis: an explosive increase in air pollution, with all its human and economic costs.

Africa is by no means alone in suffering the modern curse of air pollution. No less than 92% of the world’s population is now exposed to pollution levels exceeding World Health Organisation limits.[1] Nor is Africa “over-represented” in the global death toll from air pollution as it stands today. The total of premature deaths attributable to each of the two main types of air pollution, ambient particulate matter pollution (APMP) and household air pollution (HAP), stood at around 3 million.[2] Of these, Africa accounted for around 250,000 premature deaths from APMP, less than its share of the global population would suggest, and over 450,000 premature deaths from HAP, roughly in line with its share. In comparison, it is China, with its 900,000 deaths from APMP and 800,000 deaths from HAP that dominated the global death toll in 2013. Continue reading

How middle class are middle-income households in Latin America?

By Ángel Melguizo (OECD Development Centre) and Nora Lustig (Tulane University)

On labour informality and its causes

 One of the most important achievements of the recent period of economic expansion in Latin America has been the substantial reduction of poverty and the surge of an emerging middle class. According to World Bank estimates (Ferreira et al, 2013), in 2009 the Latin American population with a daily income of between 4 and 50 dollars a day (in parity of purchasing power) represents 68% in the region today, compared with 29% who still are moderate poverty. These ‘middle sectors’ are composed of 38% belonging to a vulnerable population, which has between 4 and 10 dollars a day, and 30% middle class, between 10 and 50 dollars. Continue reading

India’s Development Tug-of-War: Which side will win?

By Shailaja Chandra, Former Permanent Secretary of the Government of India and former Chief Secretary, Delhi; Former Executive Director, National Population Stabilisation Fund, India

For a chaotic country full of argumentative Indians many of whom are poor and uneducated, India’s continuous economic growth (not prosperity) remains a surprise. But something else is even more striking. The country has the world’s largest youngest population: 27 million babies are added each year. With such youth to bank on, India’s productivity seems to possess the best ingredients for success for decades to come.

But all great stories have another side that also must be told. Most births in India take place in some of the country’s poorest states where high fertility, low age of marriage, and a disproportionately large number of mother’s and children’s deaths present an ever-distressing picture. A group of five states have had the dubious distinction of accounting for around 45% of the country’s population, suffering and stymied from poor investments in health and education. No wonder these states were officially referred to as the BIMARU states, an acronym for their names of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, which denotes much more since the word bimaru in Hindi means sickly.

For decades, these states have defied conventional experience about the process of development and held back the achievements of the rest of the country. The differences are stark: some other states in India reached replacement level of fertility as early as 1989 and 1992. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, however, may need another five years to get there. The infant and maternal mortality in the progressive states is lower by half, and in some cases even 70% less, than in these laggard states.

Some 15 years ago, the Indian government decided to pay focused attention to these states, particularly in the highly neglected area of reproductive health. Around the same time, the five states were reorganised and became eight in number with the hope that being smaller would help them respond better to the process of development. They were rechristened the Empowered Action Group (EAG), and the pejorative title BIMARU was wiped out of the official vocabulary.  In 2005, the National Rural Health Mission, India’s largest-ever health programme, started pumping resources into these “high-focus states.”  Strategies included revamping rural health infrastructure, promoting health centre-based deliveries, facilitating access to emergency obstetric care, and assigning a trained health activist to make family-level contact, undertake pregnancy tracking and provide access to contraceptives.

Many hoped that with such a high dose of attention, the EAG would eventually catch up. Most, however, did not share this optimism, and not without reason. Even today, strong patriarchal attitudes continue to discriminate against women. Girls are denied access to schooling once they reach puberty. They are married off well before the legal age of 18 and subjected to a host of discriminatory barriers. The political leadership in most of these states has seldom accorded high priority to health or education; many have invested in perpetrating caste-based divisions in society. This backdrop naturally fails to inspire change.

Yet the good news is that by focusing attention on these laggard states and monitoring health indicators annually, a decline in fertility has begun and it is faster than anywhere else in the country. The increase in institutional deliveries has been impressive, and family health surveys and other research show that an increase in the age of marriage and greater use of contraception have contributed to lowering fertility. After decades of stagnation, the population growth rate in these states has registered a significant fall for the first time, dropping from 25% to 20.9%. From the point of view of women, the opportunity to have hospital-based deliveries stands out, complemented by such popular incentives as transportation to a health facility, compensation for leaving home, supplementary nutrition and contraception advice.

While these are positive trends, the push has to continue. These states will contribute 50% of India’s population within the next five years, equalling if not exceeding the combined population of the rest of India. The prospect of half of India holding back the other half is a dismal one. Only if the special efforts mounted receive commensurate political support that simultaneously encourage girls’ education and skill learning, later marriages and spacing between children will the laggard 50% eventually catch up. Happily, the process has begun.

India has been a member of the OECD Development Centre since 2001.


 

This article should not be reported as representing the official views of the OECD, the OECD Development Centre or of their member countries. The opinions expressed and arguments employed are those of the author.

Closing the gap on youth well-being

By Alexandre Kolev, Head of the social cohesion unit at the OECD Development Centre

Today’s world youth population ages 10 to 24, is 1.8 billion people strong and represents the largest cohort ever to be transitioning to adulthood. The vast majority of these young people – 88% – live in developing countries. These young people are the next generation. If properly nurtured, they can be engines for economic and social progress. However, if policies and programmes fail to reach them, particularly the disadvantaged youth, and give them a voice in decision-making, the youth bulge may well turn into a brake for economic and social development, leading to increasing poverty, illegal migration or failed citizenship.

While world leaders are defining the post-2015 agenda, building on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, the evidence suggests that a large segment of youth in both developed and developing countries continues to remain outside of mainstream economic and social life. Perspectives on Global Development 2012 “Social Cohesion in a Shifting World” discusses how social discontent worldwide is a sign of dissatisfaction with a development model that seems to put narrow aggregate income measures first and issues of inequality and widening social gaps on the backburner. More and more, the sentiment is that the fruits of growth are not being shared equally.

Gaps in initial education and skills, for example, are forcing too many young people to leave the school system at an early age, unprepared for work and life. Today, one out of four children in the world drops out of primary education. Surprisingly, no progress has been made on this over the last decade. Youth joblessness and vulnerable employment are widespread; young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Adolescent reproductive and sexual health needs are poorly addressed while new health risks have emerged. Not all youth have equal opportunities for legal mobility, and too many young people remain excluded from decision-making processes that affect their lives.

Yet, the opportunity to close the youth well-being gap is real.

Many governments demonstrate growing political will to develop comprehensive policies to better respond to the needs and aspirations of young people. In fact, nearly 2 out of 3 countries in the world today have a national youth policy. Such good intentions, however, continue to be undermined by serious challenges: fragmented responsibilities and weak implementation in national administrations, the lack of reliable knowledge and data, insufficient analytical and financial ressources, difficulties capturing the needs of disadvantaged groups, or the absence of appropriate monitoring and evaluation plans. No wonder countries are turning to development partners for strategic guidance on how to develop, implement or update youth policies that are based on rigorous empirical evidence and international good practices.

Designing and implementing an inclusive well-being agenda for youth calls for a number of actions.

First, data. A large number of young people, especially in low- and middle-income countries, are exposed to risk factors that threaten their development. These factors ultimately contribute to well-being deficits. Measuring and analysing the problems of disadvantaged youth is a prerequisite for developing evidence-based policies for youth. Doing this is an important feature of the OECD Development Centre’s work on social cohesion. Through country reviews on youth well-being, the Centre is actively engaged in an evidence-based dialogue with countries to help them identify policies and institutions that work well for youth under different economic, social and political contexts. The Centre is doing this work with the European Union.

Second, timely investments. Sharing good practices and exchanging information on what does and does not work and why have crucial roles to play in youth policy making in both poor and rich countries. Young people become more disadvantaged when risk factors in different areas multiply and reinforce each other or when risks lead to deprivation in one or more well-being dimension. And they suffer when there are few or no effective policies in place to prevent or mitigate such risks (prevention programmes) or to relieve the impact of such risks once they have occurred (second chance programmes).

Third, specific interventions. Policies that intervene at critical stages can significantly reduce the risks of youth becoming disadvantaged. A growing body of evidence on the promising impact of youth programmes comes from rigorous impact evaluations of specific interventions across a broad range of sectors. In the area of education, for instance, teaching children, particularly from disadvantaged groups, until at least secondary school appears to be one of the most effective policies to prevent low literacy among young adults. Facilitating the transition to the world of work through labour market counselling and comprehensive on-the-job training services are fostering youth economic inclusion. Effective youth health outcomes begin with maternal health and nutrition at an early age. During adolescence and early adulthood, youth-friendly health services, grounded in non-judgemental counselling and practical services, such as testing for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, access to contraceptives and information on HIV/AIDS prevention, become crucial for reproductive and sexual health. When advice on nutrition and mental health problems are included in the services, it can ensure a balanced life and improve the overall well-being of young people. The evidence also suggests that cultural and creative activities, violence prevention programmes and juvenile justice services, to name a few, can support active citizenship among the youth.

The youth bulge offers tremendous potential for development, but also large and interlinked economic and social challenges. Tapping into the evidence to design better policies is one of the best ways to minimize those challenges and maximize the potential, turning the youth bulge into a youth bonanza.