UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Though substantial efforts are already being made by a good number of African countries to improve the health status of their citizens, it is clear from the foregoing discussion that the general health of the people can only be described as unsatisfactory, with vulnerable social groups such as children and women being the worst affected. Unfortunately, with only five years to go and no significant changes in sight in social policy and planning, it is doubtful that "health for all" will be achieved in the region by the year 2000.
C. The employment situation
To have a deeper insight of the deteriorating state of Africa's socio-economic milieu, it is necessary to take stock of the appalling problems of unemployment and widespread underemployment. Open unemployment in urban areas has increased without abatement over the past two decades, growing from 7.7 per cent in 1978 to 22.8 per cent in 1980 and is projected to reach 30 per cent by the year 2000.
Youth unemployment is already also a critical problem facing many African countries. The trends in the employment situation point to three imperatives for the future, all on account of the labour force continuing to grow at a rate which cannot be accommodated by the African economies in terms of the provision of opportunities for productive employment: (a) a greater reliance on the informal sector for job creation; (b) a larger proportion of youths joining the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed; and, (c) a lengthier period of time to find a job. To reduce youth unemployment, action is required in reforming the educational systems and programmes so that they respond better to labour market requirements. It is imperative also to establish modalities for reducing the mismatch between the supply and demand for skills, i.e., to create skills that are really crucial for the restructuring and socio-economic transformation of the African economies.
In the past two decades, women have made significant gains regarding their participation in the labour market. Nevertheless, their unemployment rate remains on the whole three times as high as that of men. Women remain a disadvantaged part of the labour force, being frequently considered merely as a part of the "contingency" work force. Jobs held by women are usually in the less prestigious sectors of the economy, of the most temporary duration, and obtained under precarious contracts. That state of affairs explains the preponderance of women in the low productivity sectors of the informal economy. Despite the efforts made to increase the number of women in the modern sector of the economy, the share of women in paid employment in African countries remains relatively low compared to their share in the total labour force.
Owing to the limited ability of the formal sector in the provision of gainful employment, the informal sector has evolved as a sponge of the unemployed, especially, with large-scale retrenchment in the public sector and the lack of adequate compensatory schemes for employment creation. Projections by ILO's Jobs and Skills Programme for Africa (JASPA) show that, although the informal sector would need to generate 93 per cent additional jobs in urban Africa in the 1990s, it would, even if successful, absorb only 23 per cent of all entrants into the labour market. As is well known, the jobs in the informal sector offer low wages with little job security; and the growth in the size of the labour force in the sector has generally been at the expense of a failure to improve productivity or of rising underemployment, or both.
D. Refugees and displaced persons
The problem of refugees and displaced persons in Africa remains serious and alarming, not just because of the human tragedy and the incalculable sufferings to which the refugees and displaced persons are subjected, but also on account of the adverse impact of their movements on socio-economic and environmental development and stability in the region. Today, the number of refugees in Africa is in excess of 7 million refugees or approximately one third of the total world refugee population. About three times that number are internally displaced in various parts of the continent. These are people who have been forced to flee their homes and countries as the result of a combination of civil wars and internal open conflicts rooted mostly in ethnic tensions and violation of human rights; and/or as a consequence of the impact of political instability and environmental degradations aggravated often by poverty and a legacy of economic stagnation and inequalities of access to resources. But only a small percentage of them have so far returned home voluntarily, even after years in exile, owing to the on-going state of insecurity, the return of home of refugees and displaced persons is often complicated by problems of poverty, often social inequity and the ever- present fear of ethnic reprisals or killings. Many refugees are forced to subsist in remote camps and ecologically fragile zones where they may eventually themselves be responsible for some of the environmental degradation and instability that, in turn, exacerbate their already precarious existence. This underscores the need for increased assistance and support from the international community to enable the African continent to cope better with the rehabilitation and resettlement needs of the teeming ranks of refugees and displaced persons.
GENOCIDE AND POPULATION DISPLACEMENT IN RWANDA, 1994
Rwanda witnessed in 1994 a devastating human tragedy, with over 500,000 Rwandese massacred following the death of the Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda and some high-ranking officials in a plane crash on 6 April 1994. In an attempt to escape the continuing bloodbath of ethnic violence and possible reprisals, hundreds of thousands of Rwandese fled their homes and many more were forced to cross national frontiers. The United Nations Commission for Human Rights estimated in May 1994 that, within weeks, approximately 500,000 people had been internally displaced in a country with a population of at about 7,500,000 people. By December 1994 UNHCR reported over 2 million Rwandese refugees distributed over East and Central Africa. The nightmare continued as insecurity, assault and disease characterized the Rwandese refugee camps in Zaire, aggravated by the limitations of an overstretched infrastructure, particularly with regard to medical care, water and food supply. Consequently, unusually high death rates of almost 2,000 a day became the norm for a while in some of the camps.
Some of the factors that have complicated the refugee problem in Rwanda in 1994 and made it so overwhelming in the context of Central Africa are: (a) the genocide and ferocity of the ethnic violence that prompted the population displacement; (b) the huge numbers which crossed the frontiers - by December 1994, 275,000 Rwandese refugees were in Burundi, 591,000 in the United Republic of Tanzania, 4,000 in Uganda and 1,255,000 in Zaire; (c) the suddenness of the arrival of the refugees in the countries of asylum; (d) the shattered emotional and psychological state and the poor physical health of the refugees upon arrival in host countries; and (e) the state of personal insecurity and intimidation prevailing in some of the refugee camps as a result of the activities of certain extremists and militia groups. Those factors, together with the fear of ethnic reprisals or killings, and the continuing fragility of peace and polity in Rwanda and most of Central Africa, including neighbouring Burundi, have complicated in no small way the prospects for responding adequately to the tragedy, organizing humanitarian action in favour of the refugees and enabling host governments and the international community to effect emergency relief and assistance generally. Ultimately, they have a bearing also on the prospects for the voluntary repatriation and early return home of the refugees.
In the final analysis, there must be renewed multilateral efforts and the political will that can facilitate the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees and displaced persons in their natural habitat and homes. This is the only practical and fundamental long-term solution to the problem of population displacement in Africa. The promotion of peace and reconciliation, and democratic institutions and culture, in the home countries of the refugees and the displaced persons, is imperative. With the cessation of hostilities and the restoration of peace, priority attention must be given to the clearing of landmines in former conflict zones in order to enhance the normalization of life and free movement; although the real danger and wide-ranging cruelty of landmines as an instrument of warfare will for ever remain, without concerted international efforts at stopping their production and sale. And only then can refugees fleeing from political instability, civil wars, ethnic violence and conflict zones be persuaded that the factors which precipitated their departure in the first instance no longer existed, and that they can return home in safety and dignity.
Moreover, the recognition is long overdue that, beyond emergency relief and humanitarian aid to refugees and displaced persons, there will be the equally pressing need for concerted assistance with resettlement, rehabilitation and poverty alleviation, as well as reconstruction of shattered economies in the home countries of the refugees and displaced persons. Without development and some socio- economic progress, neither the returnees nor the societies to which they belong could look forward to the future with confidence and hope.
E. Women and development
Another area where progress has been awfully slow has been the integration and participation of women in the development process. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 65 per cent of the women over the age of 15 are illiterate, compared to 40 per cent for the men. Adult female literacy rates in North Africa are among the lowest in the world, and access of girls to schooling remains well below that enjoyed by boys. More than 20 million African girls aged 6-11 years were not in school in 1990; and unacceptably high gender disparities in literacy rates as well as in primary and secondary education still persist. Those who succeed in gaining access to formal education have a greater tendency to drop out, sometimes because of financial, cultural and other constraints pertaining to differential socialization processes for girls.
Improvement in women's health and reproductive rights is central to their ability to assume the decision-making power which would enable them make the necessary choices in other areas of their lives. Unfortunately, African women do not yet exercise decisive control over their fertility and reproductive capacity. The plight of the African women is being further exacerbated by sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Additionally, there is a modicum of evidence to indicate that the HIV pandemic is affecting women disproportionately more than men. For example, UNICEF, (1995), reports that women now account for 55 per cent of all new cases of HIV diagnosed in Africa, indicating a higher vulnerability of women to AIDS relative to men. One out every three pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in some of Africa's major urban centres is infected. The subordinate position of women and adolescent girls makes them particularly vulnerable to AIDS infections - younger women in particular have the least power, and lack, in general, access to information, education and communication, health facilities and training, independent income, and legal rights.
As part of the preparations for the fourth World Conference on Women which is scheduled to take place in Beijing, China, from 4 to 15 September 1995, African member States held the fifth African Regional Conference for Women in Dakar, Senegal, from 16 to 23 November 1994 to review progress made and the obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the year 2000. The major outcome was the adoption of the African Platform for Action (APA), which will be submitted to the fourth World Conference on Women. At the core of APA is an underscoring of the need to empower women politically and economically, increase their access to education, training, science and technology support their vital role in society and the family, and protect their legal and human rights; and, the identification of 11 critical areas of concern, which constitute the major gaps and obstacles to the accelerated advancement of women in Africa. They consist, in general, of: (a) women's poverty, insufficient food security and lack of economic empowerment; (b) inadequate access to education, training, science and technology; (c) women's vital role in culture, the family and socialization; (d) improvement of women's health, reproductive health including family planning and population related programmes; (e) women's relationship and linkages to environment and natural resource management; (f) involvement of women in the peace process; (g) the political empowerment of women; (h) women's legal and human rights; (i) mainstreaming of gender- disaggregated data; (j) women, communication, information and the arts; and (k) the girl-child.
E. Policies and prospects for social development and progress in Africa
The foregoing analysis indicates that social development and progress in Africa continues to be faced with a major crisis. The major social ills are: high rates of unemployment, infant and child morbidity and mortality, and maternal mortality; rapid population growth rates; environmental degradation; and a growing population of refugees and displaced persons as a result of civil wars and ethnic conflict. Women, children and youth bear a disproportionate share of the burden, which, in many cases, has been exacerbated by the social costs of adjustment.
Given the continued deterioration in the social situation in Africa, five years to the dawn of a new millennium, it has been necessary in several parts of this report to ask and to attempt answers to a number of pertinent questions: Is it that the political will to foster social development has not been sufficiently articulated in Africa's past development strategies? Or, is it that the urgency of socio-economic development and the daunting tasks involved are yet to be fully understood, or sufficiently realized and appreciated by the African Governments and their development partners? Is Africa fully committed, mobilized and braced to lifting itself up by its own bootstraps? Has donor assistance been made available in the desired amounts and with the timeliness required to ameliorate the social situation in the African region and usher in socio-economic progress and transformation?
The issues of health, education, employment and effective popular participation in social, political and economic development bear heavily on the agenda items of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, the United Nations-organized World Summit for Social Development, and the fourth World Conference on Women on the gender aspects of poverty alleviation, employment generation and social integration. By underscoring anew how inexorably progress in human development is linked to the long-term development and structural transformation which the countries of Africa must undergo if grinding mass poverty is to be overcome, these important meetings will have no doubt a salutary effect in advancing social development in Africa.
However, what is needed, first and foremost, is for the African Governments themselves to give due priority to social planning and social programmes in their own national development strategies. As articulated in the African Common Position on Human and Social Development, there is massive under- investment in the social sector in Africa, typified especially by the neglect of certain priority areas such as poverty alleviation and employment generation. Consequently, there is an urgent need to increase resource allocation and investment in job creation, environmental protection, family planning, health, education and nutrition of Africa's children and, where necessary, land reform; and, to devise modalities for integrating women into the main stream of development efforts.
To redress the situation of grossly unequal distribution of land, improved land-holding schemes are being vigorously pursued in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, for example, the Land Restitution Bill was signed into law on 17 November 1994. The legislation is an attempt to give redress to black South Africans dispossessed of their land by apartheid laws dating back to the 1913 Land Act, which limited the majority population's land ownership rights to 13 per cent. It is estimated that 3.5 million black people were victims of forced removals during the apartheid era. The Land Restitution Bill provides for the creation of a land claims court and a land commission to arbitrate claims for restitution. Petitioners have up to three years to lodge their claims.
The donor community can also better support the intricate and complex social transformation process in Africa a great deal more by restructuring and targeting ODA effectively in favour of the poor. As pointed out in UNICEF's report on the State of the World's Children, 1995, only about 25 per cent of today's aid is given to the countries where three quarters of the world's poorest billion people now live, and only about 15 per cent goes to the agricultural sector, which provides a livelihood for the majority of people in almost all developing countries, with far much less to primary education, primary health care and family planning services. That is highly undesirable. Poverty tends to perpetuate itself; and, unless a deliberate effort at poverty alleviation and eradication is made by the African Governments with the purposive and dedicated assistance of the donor community, it will persist and grow. Both the compelling urgency and the necessary scope of social policy reforms in Africa, and the corresponding needs for substantially enhanced levels of development assistance place the region in a special category to which the international community must favourably respond.
In this connection, current efforts to refocus SAPs to give more attention to poverty alleviation marks a welcome change. The World Bank now says it is making compensatory programmes (i.e., social safety nets, social action programmes, etc.) that were originally conceived as ad hoc special programmes for the mitigation of the social costs of adjustment a regular and standard feature of its new generation of SAPs. Still, the provisions of these compensatory programmes generally fall short of the ideal, which should be to integrate concerns about poverty and the social dimensions of adjustment in the basic design of SAPs, in line with the AAF-SAP and the African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation.
In the Programme of Action, which emerged from the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 6 to 12 March 1995, world leaders are urged to commit themselves to the goals of eradicating poverty in the world, and to promote full employment as a basic priority of economic and social policies. It urges national governments to pay particular attention to the following: (a) efforts and policies to address the root causes of poverty and to provide the basic needs of all. These include the elimination of hunger and malnutrition, the provision of food security, education, employment and livelihood, primary health care, safe drinking water and sanitation, adequate shelter and participation in social and cultural life, with special priority to the needs and rights of women, children, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged groups and persons; (b) creation of employment, reduction of unemployment and the promotion of appropriately and adequately renumerated employment as a strategic and policy focus, with the full participation of employers, workers and their respective organizations, and giving special attention to the problems of structural, long-term unemployment and under-employment of youth, women, people with disabilities and all other disadvantaged groups and individuals; (c) promotion of basic social programmes and expenditures, in particular those affecting the poor and the vulnerable segments of society; (d) establishment of structures, policies, objectives and measurable goals that will ensure gender balance and equity in decision-making processes at all levels; and, the broadening of womens' political, economic, social and cultural opportunities, independence and empowerment, including the organizations of indigenous women at the grassroots level.