Abdoulaye Mar Dieye is Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa.
Follow him on Twitter: @MarDieye
03 Feb 2014
Avoiding conflict and reducing poverty in Africa will require sustained efforts to promote inclusive development.
First, the continent faces the challenge of building economies that can create jobs and more equal opportunities for all. In many countries, better managing revenues from extractive resources holds the key to economic diversification and investing back into communities through quality infrastructure and social services. In addition, developing agriculture, which employs up to 60 percent of Africa’s workforce (most of it women), can be another effective way to reduce poverty in rural areas, where many marginalized groups live.
Second, securing equal political representation for disenfranchised populations is critical to ensuring they can participate in key decisions and enjoy the same levels of development at the national and the local level. When elections take place, political inclusion can also prevent vote-rigging, “winner takes all” politics and electoral violence, while involving youth is particularly important-to-avoid conflict. In Kenya, for example, the principles of equality and non-discrimination are now enshrined in the Constitution, attempting to eliminate the ethnic and regional tensions which fuelled the post-election violence of 2007.
Third, countries in Africa must equip themselves with effective national and grassroots mechanisms to build social cohesion and prevent conflict. Such mechanisms have been experimented with in countries such as Ghana, where the National Peace Architecture has promoted community dialogue and raised early warning alerts since 2005. Others have successfully promoted recovery through cash transfers or local development schemes to build trust among local communities, across ethnic and religious divides.
Fourth, social protection, for instance through public works, school-feeding programs or insurance schemes, can play a key role in ensuring that poor and marginalized groups can recover from crises, absorb economic shocks and lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Social pension initiatives in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia have been successful in that regard.
Horizontal inequalities in Africa can have debilitating effects on human development and economic growth. In 2012, UNDP’s inequality adjusted Human Development Index (HDI) revealed losses of approximately 35 percent in levels of human development for most African countries, due to inequality in life expectancy, education and income across the population.
Making sure people from all backgrounds in Africa can lead equally long, healthy and productive lives is not only a human right but also a smart economic and development measure.
Talk to us: How can we help Africa redress these imbalances and achieve the transition between economic growth and inclusive human development?