World Bank report highlights key challenges for improving Human Capital in Sub-Saharan Africa
The World Bank recently released a report titled ‘The Human Capital Project in Africa’ which is a global effort designed to accelerate human capital by encouraging effective policy and investment. The project has a key focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report praises Sub-Saharan African countries for their reduction in under five mortality rate between 1990 and 2015. However, the number of children who die before they reach their 5th birthday is still high and largely preventable, with respiratory infections, diarrhoea and malaria being major causes of death. In total, 2.9 million children in the region die before their 5th birthday each year.
Chad, Central African Republic, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Somalia all have child mortality rates above 100 death per 1,000 live births, some of the highest in the world.
The report found that health improvements vary significantly across the region, particularly with access to complex health services such as birth attendance and severe illness.
Africa has the greatest return on education of any continent with each additional year of schooling increasing earnings by 14% for girls and 11% for boys. However, 50 million children in Africa are not in school.
The report warns that schooling alone is not enough as learning levels across the region are very low. In some areas over 85% of primary school children cannot read proficiently.
Nevertheless, the report praises interventions in the region that have improved human capital including: tracking student learning outcomes and using cash transfers to promote education for the poor.
Both health and education are affected by nutrition; the report emphasises the critical role of childhood nutrition in improving human capital.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of stunting among children in the world, stunting has a damaging impact on cognitive capacity and health. Stunted children are unwell more often, perform worse in school, grow up economically disadvantaged and are more likely to suffer chronic diseases in adulthood.
Between 1990 and 2015 the number of children in Sub-Saharan Africa who suffer from stunting increased by 12 million and this trend is likely to continue if issues of malnutrition are not addressed.
Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Senegal have all reduced levels of stunting demonstrating that it can be achieved. The reduction was mainly due to public awareness campaigns that raised awareness of stunting and how to prevent it.
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Image credit: World Bank