The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2018: Progress in the child-friendliness of African governments

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In little more than 30 years’ time, Africa will be home to a billion children – an unprecedented growth which represents both a challenge and an opportunity. on the positive side, it is an opportunity to reap the demographic dividend and accelerate Africa’s sustainable and equitable development. however, this will only happen if each and every African government commits to long-term investment in decent nutrition, healthcare, education and employment opportunities for its young population. failure to do so would be an historic missed opportunity with enormous economic, social and political consequences. Children have the potential to transform Africa – but if neglected they could also increase the burden of poverty and inequality, whilst posing a serious risk to peace, security and prosperity. This report has two aims. firstly, using a sophisticated rights-based statistical methodology and drawing on a wide range of data, we examine how well African governments are delivering on their promises and commitments to children. We analyse how much effort governments are putting into realising the rights and wellbeing of children, whether they have become more or less child-friendly over the years, and why. Secondly, we go beyond simply scoring and ranking the relative performance of African governments over time to provide a comprehensive, quantitative and qualitative view of the current realities and trends in the state of child wellbeing in Africa, and their implications for the future. We conclude with one exceptionally important and alarming message. Africa is on the verge of a serious human development crisis which carries grave consequences for the social and economic wellbeing of its people and for the future of the continent. massive investment is needed over the next three decades to avoid the ticking time-bomb of a billion children and young people who are under-nourished, semi-literate or illiterate, jobless or underemployed. We urge African governments to go beyond simply fulfilling their obligations under the united nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). They must commit to major transformative actions which ensure an Africa of one billion well-fed, well-educated and globally competitive boys and girls.

Encouraging advances

Africa’s undoubtedly impressive social and economic progress over the last two decades underlines the “Africa Rising” narrative. The last few years in particular have seen positive political advances for children both at the global and continental level. In addition to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development, there have been several initiatives designed to strengthen Africa’s aspirations for transformation and development, to provide overarching frameworks for action, and to ensure that children are not left behind in Africa’s economic and social development. These include, for example, the African union (Au)’s Agenda for Children 2040 and its 10-year implementation plan; regional and national campaigns to eliminate harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage; and global and pan-African initiatives to combat violence against children.

The promising economic outlook offers improved opportunities for investment in children and young people. Projections suggest that the overall African economy will continue to grow in the coming years, boosted by efforts to improve domestic revenue mobilisation and to combat corruption. There is a growing understanding that corruption is a major barrier to human rights and sustainable development. The AU recognised this by designating 2018 as African anti-corruption year – “Winning the fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa's Transformation” – to initiate concrete actions aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability at all levels.

Together with other complementary initiatives, these actions have raised children’s issues up the continental, regional and national agenda and have led to a significant shift from rhetoric to action. There have been remarkable improvements in the survival and overall wellbeing of African children, such as reducing child mortality almost by half over the last 15 years and significantly increased access to education, particularly at primary level. There is near-universal primary enrolment, although some children – especially girls from poor or remote rural households - have not benefitted from the expansion of primary education. There has also been a substantial increase over the past two decades in vaccination against deadly childhood illnesses such as measles, and steady, albeit slow, progress in access to safe drinking water. Both overall and child poverty in Africa have declined, although it remains persistently high in large parts of the continent.

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