September 22, 2021

UNESCO maps out priorities to address Africa’s challenges

4 min read

Political instabilities and wars, droughts and desertification, and a growing population haunted by unemployment and poverty are strangling Africa’s economic potentials and incapacitating the continent’s growing talents.

Millions of children in Africa use kerosene lamps to study


By Alpha Bedoh Kamara

If there is not a political instability or war, there is high unemployment, high illiteracy, high level of disparities and injustice. From north to south, east and west, the stories intertwine with sophisticated similarities, making the continent, as a whole, unpredictable!

UNESCO’s strategy, ‘Priority Africa at UNESCO’, applauded the African Union’s views about addressing the continent’s growing challenges, that ‘to release the full potential for the development of the continent, the African countries will have to innovatively address four major challenges while taking advantage of the opportunities they represent – demographic growth, social transformation, democratic governance and sustainable development and economic growth.

Time and again, efforts are being made by leaders and international stakeholders, academics and social scientists to break the riddle of Africa’s economic challenges. The IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and other major financial institutions are pouring millions of dollars in aids, loans or grants, to cushion the unstable economies of the countries.

Unfortunately, the same old challenges continue to make these efforts unsuccessful as can be said of 21st century Africa, with most countries facing increasing levels of political and economic instability, terrorism and violence, and countries working on plans to walk out the International Criminal Court (ICC) and continue to violate the rights of their people with impunity.

‘Priority Africa at UNESCO’ could be the key to Africa’s ‘Midas Touch’ or it could also be another platform that African governments will be using as a loophole to get international money in the guise of implementing projects to meet the strategy’s goals.

‘Priority Africa at UNESCO’ medium term period 2014 -2021 will be looking at ensuring peace building and institutional capacities for sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Member States expect UNESCO to implement a stronger and better-targeted strategy to build peace, eradicate poverty, and achieve inclusive sustainable development by improving the quality, equity and relevance of education, by harnessing science, technology and innovation to boost development and build related capacities, by mobilizing the heritage and creative industries for culture and development, by promoting freedom of expression, and by using ICTs for development, gender equality and peace and citizenship education. [Priority Africa at UNESCO’].

Poor pipe-borne water facilities

Like ‘Priority Africa at UNESCO’, The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets aims to address extreme poverty in its many dimensions-income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability.

The Report by the United Nations on September 20, 2015, states that ‘Poor implementation mechanisms and excessive reliance on development aid undermined the economic sustainability of several MDG interventions’.

Where is the money going?

Why with all the monies being spent millions of people are still not accessing affordable healthcare and better education? Why is it that only capital cities and major urban towns can boast of having infrastructural facilities while millions in rural Africa wallow in Stone Age?

The Singapore story

Singapore’s success should be one to serve as a lesson for most African countries. Like every African country, Singapore faced so many challenges. Today, Singapore is the 7th least corrupt country in the world with most pro-business, and the third highest per-capita GDP in the world in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).

To ensure change in the country’s economy, the government makes sure the most basic needs of society are provided for Singaporeans. Food, shelter, health, education and employment are prioritised and now boasting of having a developed trade-oriented market economy.

Few African countries are rewriting their stories and it is the hope that other governments can learn from their success and emulate such practices to better the lives of the people.

The efforts by countries that are driving on the right economic path for their people are being taken with the people in mind and not for the pockets of politicians or for only a few people in society. And for most African countries, politicians and people in governments are with the assumption that they are the chosen ones, not answerable to the people, but the leader or president.

This mindset of politicians and the vulnerability of state institutions, such as the police and judiciary, make it harder for plausible interventions to be effective and thus the inability of international interventions to work.

As a result, the continued vicious circle of poor demographic growth and slow social transformation, poor democratic governance and sustainable development and economic growth, becomes endemic.

‘Priority Africa at UNESCO’ will again engage African governments, but how the process will impact on the intended beneficiaries remains a question, because while the research papers, engagements, speeches and public presentations of African leaders are lauded in international platforms, their millions of illiterate, unemployed and neglected electorates are drinking untreated stream water and dying in the hands of bush doctors.







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