African Leaders Just Pledged to Improve Youth Education and Health

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Human potential across the African continent is being squandered because of insufficient investments in education, health care, and skills training, according to King Letsie III of Lesotho, who spoke at the World Bank’s Spring Meetings in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

He was a part of a session on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures the well-being of youth as an indicator of a country’s economic health.

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“I have to keep repeating at every opportunity that sub-Saharan Africa continues to report the world’s highest rate of stunting among children,” he said during a keynote address. “This means that children fall sick more often, miss opportunities to learn, perform less well at school, grow up more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, and are economically disadvantaged in adulthood.”

He added: “With the fastest growing young population, Africa stands at the crossroads of a huge opportunity.”

The World Bank created the Human Capital Project (HCI) in 2018 to give countries a new framework for viewing development — one that understands youth development as being critical to long-term economic sustainability. Now, during the Spring Meetings, the multilateral organization launched the Africa Human Capital Plan, committing $15 billion to improving educational and health outcomes throughout the continent.

King Letsie III, in particular, has become an outspoken champion of the movement — and for good reason.

Twenty-five of the 30 countries with the lowest human potential scores are in Africa, according to the HCI, and the region as a whole is enabling only 40% of its population’s potential.

There are various reasons for why the region is struggling, including the fact that 32% of children under the age of 5 are stunted, 2.9 million children under the age of five die every year, 50 million children are out of school, and 33% of the region’s 420 million youth, aged 15-35, are unemployed.

But many governments are committed to turning this around and some progress is being made.

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Dalitso Kabambe, the governor for the Reserve Bank of Malawi, spoke about how his country is dedicating more of its budget to ensuring that all girls receive a quality education. In Malawi, more than 70% of girls over the age of 15 have never received any qualifications from education, he said, and added that the country can gain $600 million annually through economic gains if it invests in education.

Empowering women and girls was a theme throughout the morning.

“If we have girls getting married at the age of 12, having children at the age of 15, we will not be able to reduce maternal mortality, childhood mortality, and stunting,” said Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank vice president for Africa. “We need our girls to stay in schools.”

Source: Global Citizen

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