World Bank launches human capital plan in Africa

Africa childThe World Bank has unveiled a new plan to enable Africa's young people to grow up with optimal health and equipped with the right skills to compete in the digitising global economy

Sub-Saharan Africa scores the lowest of all the world's regions on the World Bank's Human Capital Index, a measurement of how well countries invest in the next generation of workers. The score is explained by high mortality and stunting rates in the region, as well as inadequate student learning outcomes - all of which have a direct effect on economic productivity.

In an effort to help countries turn these indicators around, the World Bank's Africa Human Capital Plan is setting ambitious targets to be achieved in the region by 2023. These include a drastic reduction in child mortality to save four million lives, averting stunting among 11mn children and increasing learning outcomes for girls and boys in school by 20 per cent. These achievements can raise Africa's Human Capital Index score upwards to increase the productivity of future workers by 13 per cent.

“Preventing a child from fulfilling his or her potential is not only fundamentally unjust, but it also limits the growth potential of economies whose future workers are held back. GDP per worker in Sub-Saharan Africa could be 2.5 times higher if everyone were healthy and enjoyed a good education from pre-school to secondary school,” said Hafez Ghanem, vice-president at World Bank for Africa.

The plan further focuses on empowering women to prevent early marriage and pregnancy for adolescent girls.

The World Bank will increase its investments in human capital in Africa by 50 per cent in the next funding cycle. This includes new World Bank grants and concessional finance for human capital projects in Africa totalling US$15bn in fiscal years 2021-2023.

The World Bank will also target new interventions that leverage technology and innovation and that prevent and reverse damage to human capital in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

“Human Capital Project countries are breaking away from traditional paradigms to make an investment in their people a priority and are working in a more coordinated way across government to ensure that households have the right enabling environment to support human capital formation,” said Annette Dixon, vice-president at World Bank human development.

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