By Ronald Joshua
Child deprivation “has a lasting and detrimental impact on nations’ political stability, prosperity and sustainable development”, warns a new report. Titled The Economic Case for Investing in Children in Africa: Investing in our Common Future, the report was launched on November 18 at a pan-African virtual event involving representatives from African governments, the UN, World Bank, civil society organisations, human rights activists and child policy experts.
The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) research report clearly shows that investment in children, especially in early childhood, has substantial long term economic and social benefits.
“Despite compelling evidence, many African countries still do not seem to recognise the benefits of investing in children,” said ACPF Executive Director Dr Joan Nyanyuki. “There is a general tendency to see resources spent on children as an act of benevolence rather than an investment that will yield huge returns over a longer period of time. With less than ten years to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), African governments should accelerate their investments in children’s health, nutrition, education, protection, and other essential services. The time to act is now.”
“Governments must stop treating social protection for children as a luxury they can’t afford and start treating it as a necessity for economic development they can’t afford to ignore,” stated Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi.
Child labour is singled out as one of the visible signs of failed economic policies and of deprivation. The report notes that three out of every ten African children are victims of child labour; a quarter of all modern slavery involves a child; and in some countries, such as Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Benin, more than 40 percent of children are victims.
The economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is also hitting investment in children, note the report’s authors. “Children, who are the most vulnerable, experience adverse outcomes during economic downturns, a phenomenon that is much more marked in poorer countries,” they say.
“Income shocks due to economic slowdowns may also lead to increases in child labour. Economic downturns will have negative impacts on the future prospects of all family members, including children, and will have consequences for years to come.”
“Child-insensitive socioeconomic policies have resulted in limited investment in children and thwarted opportunities to expand access to basic services, particularly to vulnerable groups. Lack of recognition of the substantial social and economic benefits of investing in children among policy-makers has also contributed to governments’ inaction.” said Dr Nyanyuki.
“The cost of inaction is unnecessarily, and unacceptably high and African governments need to accelerate their investment in children’s health, nutrition, education, protection and other essential services. Achieving the necessary progress requires governments to commit to giving greater political and institutional visibility to children’s needs. The time to act is now.”