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African Development Indicators Launch in Washington DC: Targets Diaspora to Promote Job Creation and Youth Development in Africa

  • Members of African Diaspora in Washington Attend African Development Indicators Launch
  • ADI Provides data and other information on the status of youth and employment in Africa
  • Participants discussed ways to improve education and opportunities for youth in rural African areas

WASHINGTON, December 23, 2008 -- More than 50 Washington D.C.-based members of the African Diaspora participated in the launch of the 2008/2009 Africa Development Indicators (ADI) report at World Bank headquarters last week.

As this year’s ADI focuses on “Youth and Employment in Africa – The Potential, The Problem, The Promise”, the launch targeted Diaspora with an interest in youth development and promoting job creation in Africa.

“The ADI launch in D.C. targets people who can really make a difference to Africa – the Diaspora,” said Shantayanan Devarajan, Chief Economist of the World Bank’s Africa Region, in his opening remarks. He further explained that data can be a good tool for accountability to help citizens hold leadership responsible for measurable results.

Devarajan said that there had been an evolution in the use of data in Africa and gave the example of public expenditure tracking in Uganda which initially revealed that only 13 percent of funds allocated for education arrived at the school. Using data to challenge the government, the percentage of funds arriving at Ugandan schools eventually rose to 90 percent, with a typical school headmaster printing data and posting on the school door, to meet parental demands.

He explained that in addition to being a database of development indicators, the current ADI provided an excellent essay on the status of youth and employment in Africa.

“According to the data, the median African youth is an 18.5 year-old female, lives in a rural area and literate but not attending school,” Devarajan said. He added that in order to have maximum impact, rural areas must also be targeted for development programs.

“The ADI is by far the largest database available on Africa,” said Jorge Saba Arbache, Senior Economist, team leader of the ADI and panelist. “Our aims are to democratize access of civil society, journalists, academics and development groups to data and increase and enhance accountability,” he added.

Arbache pointed out that though migration to urban areas is increasing rapidly, the youth will be in rural areas for a long time. The report has a series of suggestions for governments, for example, to devise means of getting youth to stay longer in rural areas, while they are prepared for a more rewarding migration, and cities are prepared to better receive them. Arbache called for support to the private sector, which has a major role to play in job creation.

Chinua Akukwe, Professorial Lecturer in Global Health at George Washington University and a panelist, gave a medical perspective to the discussion, pointing out that the typical youth highlighted by Devarajan was unlikely to have access to good healthcare.

“The fact that she is not in school, means she is in danger of contracting HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases,” he said. He explained that an African female of that age is six times likely to be infected by HIV than her male counterpart.

Akukwe called for a multi-faceted, multi-sectoral approach to Africa’s problems, noting some extreme cases where life expectancy is below 40, such as in Mali, “which reminds us that we are back where we were in the 70’s,” he said. He however acknowledged that there are a few encouraging life expectancy indices such as in Mauritius where it is 73.

“If you are not organized, you cannot make a difference as members of the Diaspora,” he cautioned. “You also cannot make a difference when you are not in good terms with your government,” Akukwe added.

Pointing out that the Diaspora is naturally organized through alumni, hometown, ethnic, religious and professional associations, another panelist, Claire Nelson of the Institute of Caribbean Studies recommended that the Diaspora use the ADI data to derive meaning as to how they can intervene in Africa.

“We have to put a new visual image of what development looks like,” Nelson urged.

Bolarinwa Onaolapo of Africare and the third external panelist said that the issue of unemployment had same source as the economic mismanagement which plagues African countries and which has failed to provide quality education, access and opportunity to the youth.

“Rural youth want to be part of this fast moving globalized society and are not interested in fishing and farming,” said Onaolapo. “They feel there is no opportunity for them unless they go to the cities,” he added.

Participants and panelists both agreed on the need to improve quality of education in Africa, to create opportunities in rural Africa and ensure access for the youth in a variety of areas including, job opportunities, electrification and wireless access in rural areas. They also felt that the private sector could play an important role in facilitating this.

This event was organized by the World Bank Africa Region’s Diaspora Program Team, which is working in different ways to facilitate Diaspora contributions to home country development. As a next step, this team will build on the findings of the ADI to create, in partnership with USAID, a platform where partners with an interest in Africa's development can meet and provide technical and financial assistance to members of the Diaspora planning to implement Youth and Employment related projects in Africa.

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