Social Development in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Prospects, March '95

Social Development in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Prospects, March '95

Social Development in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Prospects

        Paper prepared for the World Summit on SocialDevelopment
        March 1995
        Copenhagen, Denmark

The InterAfrica Group 

Center for Dialogue on Humanitarian, Peace and Development Issues in the Horn of Africa
We apologise that it has not been possible to reproduce the tables in the e-mail version, if you would like hard copies sent, please contact IAG.

1. The Region

The Horn of Africa, which includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, covers an area of almost 4.4 million square kilometers, and includes some of the largest as well as smallest countries in Africa. It is home to about 90 million people, with projections indicating that the population will exceed 112 million by the end of the century if past trends continue (Table 2). It thus accounts for between one-sixth and one-fifth of the territory and population of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Although the countries of the region share many common features, there is also great diversity among them, rendering each country unique in many respects. Djibouti stands out among the countries of the region for being the smallest in terms of territory and population, for the structure of its economy and society (mostly urban and essentially dependent on services rather than agriculture), as well as for having escaped the traumatizing experiences of war that are the common experiences of its neighbors. It has for long been considered a haven of tranquillity in a tempestuous region, but it has also had its share of conflict, albeit not as pronounced as in other countries of the Horn. It does, however, share many of the social problems of the others. It is also very much affected by developments in its neighbors - Ethiopia and Somalia, with the former of which it has important economic relations, especially through the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway.

Eritrea is the youngest state, having achieved formal statehood only in 1993, after constituting a part of Ethiopia. It is the second smallest country of the region, both in terms of territory and population. Its unique feature is that it has newly embarked on statehood, with all the formidable challenges that this involves. It borders on Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti, a fact which renders particular significance to its relations with these countries, especially Ethiopia and Sudan. It is linked to the former by many economic, political and cultural ties, and it represents its most important gateway to the sea. Recent developments indicate that its relations with the latter have been rather difficult, culminating in the severance of diplomatic relations. The major challenge of this state is to transform a war-torn territory into one of peace and development.

Ethiopia's geographical configuration is such that it shares borders with all other countries of the region, which makes this country central to understanding developments in the region. Its recent history has been turbulent, partly on account of its own internal dynamics but also partly on account of its relations with its neighbours, most significantly with Somalia, with which it has had frequent armed confrontations, reaching full-scale war in 1979. In less than one generation, Ethiopia has had to grapple with two fundamental transitions, one between 1974 and 1991, the other since 1991. Its major challenge is to what extent it will manage the current multiple transitions in the fields and politics and economics, and lay the groundwork for the development of an economy that is still in ruins.

At the moment of writing, of all the countries of the region, Somalia represents the most serious challenge to peace and development. Now commonly cited as an example of a "failed state", the country has yet to reconstitute itself as a working polity. Somalia is a country which, although almost a textbook example of a country with the perfect arrangements for a unified state, has paradoxically turned out to be the one that has advanced farthest on the road to social disintegration. Its unique problem is therefore one of re-establishing the normal functions of government and tackling the problems of peace and development.

Although to a lesser extent, Sudan also faces enormous challenges of integration. A civil war that has a long history behind it and has continued unabated for more than a decade now, constitutes the single most important agenda of that country. It is difficult to envisage a serious assault on the problems of economic and social development in that country without a lasting resolution of the civil war.

It is thus clear that there is great diversity between the countries of the region in terms of size, population, resources, history and politics, and that each of them has its own unique characteristics and challenges. Hence one must avoid the temptation to over-generalize.

However, for all the diversity, there are also many common features shared by these countries.3 The first is their underdevelopment and poverty. According to most recent information, all of them fall within the category of low-income countries. But there is of course more to poverty and underdevelopment than is suggested by figures on per capita income, which are at any rate of dubious accuracy.

Perhaps a better picture can be obtained by looking at several dimensions of human development as presented in UNDP's Human Development Report 1994 (see Tables 1-4).4 All of them are listed under the "low human development" category, with the best performer - Sudan - appearing only 151st among 173 countries. And the others rank 161st, 163rd and 165th, right at the bottom end of the ladder. The human development index for all countries of the Horn falls far below 0.4, the cut-off point used by UNDP to describe "abysmal human conditions". All of them also fall in the category of least developed countries.

Not only that, the human development record of the Horn compares unfavorably with even that of Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. The respective figures for various indicators are: 48.1 and 51.1 for life expectancy; 43.1% and 51% for adult literacy; and $823 and $1250 for real GDP per capita in purchasing power parity dollars for the Horn and Sub-Saharan Africa, respectively.

Those living in absolute poverty in the rural areas number 51 million, or about 57% of the total population, clearly a staggering figure suggesting the gross magnitude of the poverty problem in the region. Between 1980 and 1990 the percentage of the rural population living in absolute poverty was 85% in Sudan, 70% in Djibouti and Somalia, and 63% in Ethiopia. Only 58% of the population has access to health services; and the figures for access to safe water and sanitation are even lower, 55% and 41%, respectively. And the population of the region, on the average, meets only 75% of its daily calorie requirements. Other dimensions of poverty are explored later in the paper.

The other characteristic of the Horn is that it has served as a theatre of war for a very long period and that it still features armed conflict and political and social instability. As indicated earlier, Somalia represents the most extreme case, given the absence of a functioning government. Sudan also continues to bleed from a civil war that shows no signs of immediate termination. The Ethiopian situation is more complex. We hope for the sustainability of the peace that has prevailed since 1993. Eritrea and Djibouti seem relatively free from internal conflict; however, the civil peace in the latter has been punctuated by periodic crises in the past; and the period of Eritrean independence is too short to make definitive projections on the sustainability of peace there. It needs to be noted also that instability is occasioned not only by internal conflicts, but by those that flow across borders, the most notable historically being those between Ethiopia and Somalia. But there are also tensions elsewhere, even if they do not always translate into full-scale war. The Horn's most recent history also reveals that it has been a playing field for great power rivalry, especially during the cold war.

Finally, it needs to be noted that the fate of the countries of the Horn is intertwined and that, therefore, they face a common destiny. Therefore, any strategy that seeks to bring about lasting peace and development in the region is bound to fail if it does not take this fact into account. There is considerable interaction between the peoples of the Horn, especially along the borders, rendering these borders somewhat artificial. There are also many shared resources, especially the great rivers of the region, adding additional support to the contention that the countries face a common future.

2. The Social Situation in the Horn of Africa

With this general background, we now turn to look at the social situation in the region in somewhat greater detail. Put briefly, in spite of notable progress in recent years, the situation is still quite grave.

Any analysis of the social situation must start with the demographic picture. The population of the Horn has more than doubled since 1960, and - if, as seems most likely, it continues to increase at the current rate - it will double again by the middle of the second decade of the next century. Given the poor economic performance of the region over the last third of a century and the severe resource constraints it faces, as well as its many unresolved political problems, these statistics are very sobering indeed. What is involved is supporting another 23 million people just by the end of the present century, which has only six more years to run its course.

Table 1: The Horn of Africa:

Human Development and Human Deprivation IN addition to the size of the population and its high rate of growth, one also needs to take into account its age composition. Almost half of the region's population consists of those fifteen years of age or younger. The population structure is thus heavily skewed towards the young. One major implication of this fact is that it will impose serious demands for resources to provide the requisite social services, especially in the areas of health and education. Given the already low state of provision of these services and the serious resource constraints, this is a development of grave import for the social situation in the region. Further, although the population of the Horn is predominantly rural5 , the rate of urbanization has been quite high in recent years, both on account of the rural push and the urban pull. Leaving the special case of Djibouti aside, the urban population of the region increased from an average of 11% of total population in 1960 to almost 24% in 1992, and is projected to reach 29% by the year 2000.This has led to serious overcrowding in the few cities, leading to a rapid deterioration in living conditions, including high unemployment, inadequate and squalid housing, poor urban services, and mounting crime.

Table 2: Demographic Profile of the Horn of Africa

The interaction of such an unfavorable demographic dynamics and environmental degradation, on top of a variety of other factors - including political dislocation and defective policies - has placed the region in a most precarious position with respect to food security. And food insecurity has manifested itself in all its forms, including widespread malnutrition and recurrent famines. In fact, famine has been an abiding feature of all countries in the region with the possible

Table 3: Trends in Human Development

possible - but insignificant - example of Djibouti. Thus, in all countries of the region food import dependency has been steadily increasing. For Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia, the food production per capita index for 1991 (with 1979/81 taken as the base period) averaged 81, i.e., food production per capita fell by almost 20% over the period indicated. In contrast, the food import dependency ratio index for 1988/90 (with 1969/71 as the base period) averaged 392.6 In other words, dependence on food imports increased almost four-fold over the period indicated.

The situation is equally grave when one considers health and education. To be sure, there has been progress on several counts (Table 3). Thus, in all countries life expectancy has increased by more than ten years between 1960 and 1992. Within the same period, infant mortality declined, on the average, by almost one-third. Excluding Sudan, for which information was not available, the population with access to safe water increased from 29% during 1975-80 to 59% during 1988-91. There was also a moderate reduction in the percentage of underweight children under five. In the area of school enrolment at all levels, too, there was some improvement, the figure having risen by three percentage points between 1980 and 1990. These are important gains, and they should not be gainsaid.

But such gains also need to be put in proper perspective. In the first place, improvements in terms of percentages do not translate into improvements in terms of absolute figures. Because of the rapid growth of population, an improvement in relative terms could take place side by side with an increase in the absolute number of people deprived of, say, access to safe water, or with more children dying before the age of one.

Table 4: Health and Education

Secondly, even with the gains that have been registered, there remain monumental social problems to be tackled. Thus, the population per doctor ratio is more than 33,000 in Ethiopia, 14,000 in Somalia and 11,000 in Sudan (Table 4). The figures for population per nurse and nurses per doctor repeat the same picture of deprivation.

The gravity of the health situation emerges more clearly when one examines the picture with respect to child survival and development (Table 5). Thus, only 10% of births in Ethiopia are attended by health personnel, the figure rising to 60% in the case of Sudan (there is no information available for Somalia). The maternal mortality rate in the region averages to 810. And the infant mortality rate of 115 and the under-five mortality rate of 183 are higher than the averages for Sub-Saharan Africa. In other words, almost one-fifth of children do not live to their fifth birthdays. One must add to this the increasing incidence of AIDS, which represents a health disaster of an altogether different order, not to mention the prevalence of such killers as malaria and tuberculosis.

Table 5: Child Survival and Development

And public expenditure on health as a percentage of GNP was a mere 1.6% in 1990, considerably lower than the Sub-Saharan African average. Interestingly, military expenditure as a percentage of combined health and education expenditure averaged to 145 in 1990-91, rising to as high as 190 in Ethiopia and 200 in Somalia (Table 6).7 The Sub-Saharan African average was a modest 43.

The challenges are equally staggering in the sphere of education as well. The adult literacy rate for the region averages to about 43%, and this is most likely an exaggeration. For instance, the figure given for Ethiopia is 50%, which is inflated. In no other country does it come to even 30%, which most likely makes the Horn the region with the lowest literacy rate in the world. In 1990, gross enrolment ratios averaged 44%, 16%, and 1.5% for primary, secondary and tertiary education, respectively, and in all cases they were lower than the averages for Sub-Saharan Africa (Table 4).

On top of these problems are those of inadequate and poor housing, unemployment (of which more later) and virtual absence of social security for the vast majority of the population.

Table 6: Military Expenditure and Resource Use Imbalances

Revealing as the figures cited are, they also hide considerable gender and urban-rural disparities. As elsewhere in the world, women fare worse than men with respect to all social indicators, including access to education and health services, employment and remuneration for work. Likewise, most social services are concentrated in urban areas, much to the neglect of the countryside.

3. Themes of the World Summit on Social Development

The World Summit will focus on the three major themes of poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. Each of these represents an integral component of social development, and all of them are highly interrelated. Therefore, a brief discussion of them is in order.

Poverty, specifically absolute poverty, is simply the inability to attain a minimum standard of living, i.e., to afford the most minimal requirements of life. It is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, representing not merely lack of money or other assets, but also lack of security, dignity and independence.

While conceptualizing poverty is not particularly difficult, its measurement is an altogether different problem. In defining the poverty line for a given country, one has to take into account the expenditure necessary to buy a minimum standard of nutrition and other basic services, and an additional amount that reflects "the cost of participating in the every day life" of that particular country8 , which component - because it is more subjective - is more difficult to establish.

Viewed globally, the last thirty years or so have witnessed significant gains in poverty alleviation. However, more than 1 billion people still live in absolute poverty, making poverty reduction the most fundamental objective of development in the contemporary world. And for all the advances made, there are more poor people today than ever before. Viewed regionally, progress has been uneven, with Africa representing one of the regions in which both the proportion and the absolute number of people in absolute poverty have increased. If past trends continue, prospects for the future are also bleak. It is these facts that render centrality to the problem of poverty reduction. On success in this sphere may well depend the chances of a peaceful and stable world, for it is difficult to imagine tranquillity in a world in which well over a billion people are denied access to the most basic necessities of life.

The leading cause of poverty is the limited capacity of poor economies to generate gainful employment in adequate quantities. The capacity of an economy to generate employment is determined by the dynamic interaction between economic growth on the one hand, and demography on the other. On the supply side, the major determinants are the size, rate of growth and age structure of population. Population size, which is directly related to the size of the labor force, is perhaps the most important variable in determining the scope of the employment challenge any country faces at a given point in time, while the rate of growth has a direct impact on the number of new jobs that must be created each year. No less germane, however, is the age structure of the population, because it determines the relative shares of the population that fall within and outside the labour force. These three demographic variables, and expansion in the school system, between them define the magnitude of the employment challenge on the supply side.

The demand for labor is determined by the state of the economy and by its performance over time. As conventionally understood, economic growth has both direct and indirect effects on employment generation. To the extent that higher levels of output require higher levels of employment, one has what is called the employment effect of "pure growth". To the extent that economic growth is labor-using, it will lead to an expansion in employment, and this is what is usually referred to as the employment effect of "technical change". The extent to which economic growth will generate further employment is therefore determined by the combined effect of these two factors. This, in essence, is the demand side of the problem viewed in the aggregate. Seen in the context of specific sectors or branches of economic activity, however, this would involve looking into specific types of skills required by specific economic activities.

The interaction of these supply and demand dimensions defines in broad terms the nature and magnitude of the employment problem. On the supply side, the challenge is one of providing employment for a sizeable and growing labor force. On the demand side, the disappointing performance of African economies in the last several years has seriously constrained their capacity to generate jobs. Thus, we have a substantial imbalance between supply and demand, and it is a recognition of this fact that must serve as a starting point for designing policies and strategies for enhancing the employment generating capacity of these economies. But such policies and strategies must be based on a close examination of different sectors of the economy. In this context, it is important to look at the rural, formal and informal sectors separately.

While issues of poverty and employment have been very widely discussed in the voluminous literature on development, the third theme of the World Social Summit - social integration - has not received much attention within the context of social development. Yet, in a fundamental sense, it is perhaps the most over-riding issue of all three, essentially because, in the absence of social integration, the very existence of society is subject to question, and all other issues recede into second place.

Social integration is less easy to define than poverty and employment. To be sure, it does not mean the absence of tensions and conflicts in society, whatever nature these may assume. In fact, these tensions and conflicts are the very stuff of which social dynamism is made. A society, which is a living organism, cannot be devoid of these. What is central, therefore, is not the absence of conflict, but putting in place institutions and modalities for the peaceful and satisfactory resolution of societal conflicts, whatever form they take: class, ethnic, religious, regional, etc.. Where given population groups are marginalized and have no means of seeking redress through peaceful means, conflicts are bound to assume, sooner or later, the form of armed confrontation. Only a society in which all groups feel they have a stake, and only one which has the institutions and mechanisms that ensure that conflicts of interest are resolved peacefully can be said to be socially integrated.

In today's world, however, many are the countries in which the state of social disintegration is so advanced that the continued existence of these countries as viable polities is subject to great doubt. The threats to social cohesion assume a variety of forms - ethnic, religious, regional, class, to name only the most common ones. While the poor countries of the world have no monopoly in this regard, it is nevertheless true that some of the most acute cases of social disintegration in the contemporary world are concentrated in the poorest countries, notably in the African continent. An environment of social disintegration makes meaningless any attempts to address problems of poverty and employment, because it entails building structures on fragile foundations. But, as pointed out earlier, success in attaining the goals of poverty reduction and employment creation will doubtless make significant contributions to relaxing social tensions and creating the framework for sustainable social development.

Such is the picture when viewed in general terms. We now turn to an examination of the major themes of the World Social Summit in the specific context of the Horn of Africa.

4. Poverty Reduction in the Horn of Africa

As indicated earlier, the Horn of Africa embraces some of the most impoverished countries of the world. Since this is a point that is not subject to dispute, there is nothing to be gained by ampl amplifying it in great detail. At any rate, the data that we have, although they give indications of the order of magnitude of the poverty problem, are not sufficient or accurate enough to permit detailed investigation. It would therefore be more fruitful to focus on the underlying causes of poverty and on possible strategies for alleviating it.

Essentially, poverty is a problem of both growth and distribution. In the Horn of Africa, there is little doubt that the first problem is the most fundamental. Therefore, the major factor behind massive poverty is the poor economic performance of the region. How poor this performance has been can be observed by looking at Table 7. First, per capita income is low in all countries. Second, in all countries the rate of growth was negative during 1980-92. Third, the record of growth during this period was distinctly poorer than during 1965-80.

Table 7: Per Capita Income

As conventionally understood, the only lasting solution to problems of poverty lies in sustained economic growth, i.e., appreciable increases in per capita income over a fairly extended period of time. The logic is that more goods and services have to be produced in order to enable large numbers of people to have access to them. The fundamental principle here is that as more goods and services are produced, at least some of them are bound to trickle down to the most disadvantaged constituencies of society. Conversely, it is maintained, attempting to address problems of poverty in a context in which there is little or no growth would merely lead to a universalization of poverty. In other words, the pie must be made larger before it can be divided out among a larger number of people.

This strategy makes sense, but only up to a point. Poverty cannot be alleviated in the context of a stagnant economy, and - to this extent - there is no alternative to growth. However, this approach has a number of limitations.

First, economic growth of an appreciable degree requires a fairly extended period of time to materialize, while problems of poverty are of most immediate urgency. In a society in which per capita income is extremely low, with an annual population growth of 3% (which is about the average for the Horn of Africa), even a 7% rate of growth of GDP (which has not been registered in the Horn for any long period of time), would amount to only a 4% increase in per capita income, a creditable achievement but one which cannot make any significant dent into the poverty problem even if it were sustained over a period of ten years, for example. And a 4% growth rate in per capita income for a decade is nothing short of a miracle given the experience of the countries of the Horn. But, in contrast, problems of mass hunger and ill health, which are the stuff of which poverty is made, cannot be postponed into the indefinite future.

Second, the historical record demonstrates conclusively that even sustained growth does not necessarily translate into automatic poverty alleviation. The assumption that the benefits of growth necessarily trickle down even to the poorest segments of society has turned out to be an illusion. There have been numerous cases of countries in which increases in per capita income have taken place parallel with more people living in absolute poverty, more unemployment and increasing disparities in the distribution of income and wealth. In other words, the benefits of growth do not trickle down to the poor unless policies are expressly formulated and implemented to ensure that this does indeed happen.

This brings us to the third point, which is that even in cases of modest growth, much can be done in the area of poverty alleviation if the commitment and political will are there. There is evidence to demonstrate that if the will is there, the amount of resource transfer required from the better-off to the poor in order to eradicate poverty is surprisingly low. Thus, according to the World Bank, "the transfer needed to lift everybody above the poverty line ... was [in 1985] only 3 percent of developing countries' total consumption"; and "the transfer needed to lift everybody out of extreme poverty was ... just 1 percent of developing countries' consumption".9 And internationally, if even a modest fraction of the so-called peace dividend made possible by the termination of the cold war were redirected to the tasks of poverty alleviation, much could be achieved in improving the lives of millions of people. But the crux of the problem is that such commitment is wanting, both within countries and internationally, essentially because the poor are a voiceless constituency.

It is these considerations that dictate the need for formulating alternative strategies for poverty alleviation. One must begin by noting that no strategy should negate the necessity of economic growth in solving problems of poverty. It would simply be unrealistic to assume that growth is unnecessary for poverty alleviation. One could even go further and assert that such a conception would perpetrate an illusion. The point, however, is that it takes more than economic growth or just any type of growth to address the poverty issue. Therefore, it is not just any type of growth, but growth with certain characteristics that will lead to poverty alleviation.

In the first place, it must be growth that creates jobs (see also Section 5). Unfortunately, all too often the experience has been that the kind of economic growth that has taken place in most Third World countries has been extremely limited in its capacity to generate employment. This has been called jobless growth10 ; in the special case of the Horn of Africa one could even go farther and describe the situation as one of neither growth nor jobs. This is not the place to go into the reasons why growth has not been able to create jobs, but one major factor has been the indiscriminate adoption of technologies that have very little employment generating capacities. Therefore, the creation of jobs, not merely increases in output of goods and services, must be taken as a central concern of policy.

A second and related point is that policies should be designed to create opportunities for self-employment, both on and off the farm, as well as to create modalities whereby those already self-employed can increase their incomes. This would require a strategy that combines incentives for self-employment and removing barriers to such employment. At least in part, this would require active promotion of the so-called informal sector, which has been called the poor man's (and woman's) sector because it often represents the last refuge of those who have either been denied access to the formal sector or have been pushed out of it. For those who already have some form of self-employment, the vast majority of whom would be farmers, policies should be so framed as to increase their access to such resources as land, technology and credit.

A third area of focus should be increasing the poor's access to basic health and education. Spending on these and related social services is both an end and a means. It is an end because better health and education for as a large a segment of a society as possible is a desirable objective in its own right. It is a means because, as the experience of many countries has convincingly demonstrated, the returns to investment in these areas, in the form of higher productivity, are considerable. In fact, no appreciable advances in poverty alleviation can be contemplated without a determined effort at widening opportunities for health, nutrition and education.

All these considerations underscore the important role policies have to play in poverty alleviation. This objective has to be put at the very center of development strategies. If it is neg neglected or made peripheral to other concerns, such as the pursuit of high growth rates for their own sake, then the problem of poverty will increase, not diminish, in severity.

5. Employment and Unemployment in the Horn of Africa

The leading cause of poverty in the Horn of Africa, as elsewhere in the continent, is the shortage of opportunities for gainful employment. While this brooks no dispute, it is unfortunately also true that the data on employment and unemployment are "sketchy, outdated and notoriously unreliable"11 . This makes it impossible to provide detailed statistics on various aspects of the problem. Our exercise will therefore have to be confined to identification of the major issues and challenges.

In the absence of data specific to the Horn of Africa and on the assumption that the situation in the region does not markedly differ from what obtains in other Subs-Saharan African countries, we will attempt to sketch the employment profile of the region by referring to the more aggregate data, based on the three reports issued to date by the ILO's Jobs and Skills Programme for Africa (JASPA).

While it tends to receive most of the attention, it is interesting to note that modern sector wage employment, both in the private and public sectors, does not employ more than 10% of the labor force. In addition, its capacity to absorb the rapidly growing labor force has slowed down considerably over the years. In contrast, agriculture continues to be the major provider of jobs, and it holds brighter prospects than the modern sector. It is also worth noting that rural non-farm employment engages anywhere from 10% to 20% of the rural labor force.12

However, recent years have witnessed the growing importance of the informal sector in employment generation. This sector has been described as "one of the most important labour sponges in Africa"13 and as "employer of the last resort".14 According to JASPA estimates, in 1991 this sector accounted for more than 60% of the urban labor force and 25% of the total labor force.15 While these facts show the crucial role played by the informal sector in generating employment, one should not, however, be oblivious of the fact that it is a sector that operates within very serious constraints, some of which are policy-induced, and that therefore there are important limits on the extent to which it can be counted on to generate jobs in the future.

Also worth noting is the fact that women's participation in the labor force has been increasing over the last thirty years or so. However, this does not alter the fact that women are still highly marginalized in terms of employment as well as in terms of remuneration from employment.

As elsewhere in the rest of Africa, unemployment is one of the post pressing social problems in the Horn, not only because it is already substantial but also because it threatens to be even more grave in the future. It is mostly urban unemployment, and an inordinate burden of it falls on the youth, especially those with some education and young women. There are several factors that account for this.16 The first is demographic. Not only is the aggregate population increasing at a fast rate, but also the proportion of the youth (ages 15-24) in total population is growing, a phenomenon not observed in the rest of the world.

A second factor pertains to the enormous expansion in school enrolment, with a consequent increase in the number of school leavers seeking jobs. In times when the employment situation is bleak, new school leavers, on account of their inexperience, are the first to suffer.

Other factors are policy related, and they are relevant to the extent that policies affect the pattern of whatever development takes place and its capacity to generate jobs. Thus policies with respect to land tenure, taxation, wages, education, technology and a host of others have an important bearing because they can either promote or hamper employment generation for the youth. While some of these factors apply to employment in general, some are specifically related to youth unemployment.

The larger unemployment problem can be attributed to high rates of population growth; sluggish economic growth; the inability of whatever growth takes place to generate a commensurate proportion of jobs; and lack of structural transformation in the economy. Thus, there are factors at work on both the supply and demand side of the labor market, and any strategy for solving the unemployment problem must take due account of them. At the very minimum, this involves strategies to accelerate the rate of economic growth. However, it is now well established that growth, while necessary, is not sufficient to expand employment. In other words, it has to be labor-intensive growth. One also needs to put in place policies specifically designed to promote employment in the informal sector and in the non-farm rural sector as well as policies for promoting the employment of youth and women. Also, a review of the educational system, especially with respect to curricula, deserves serious consideration.

6. Social Integration in the Horn of Africa

Few regions in the world excel the Horn of Africa with respect to the extent to which conflict has been superimposed on underdevelopment and poverty. For close to forty years now, the region has been a theater of some of the most harrowing conflicts of the modern world, most of them internal to the countries.

The newest state of the region, Eritrea, was in fact born out of such conflict, a conflict notable not only for the fact that it lasted for one generation but also for the fact that it inflicted human sacrifices of staggering proportions. As Eritrea grapples with the teething problems of newly acquired nationhood, the new regime in Ethiopia has embarked on a course intended to reconstitute the polity along a new line, the linchpin of the whole experiment being decentralization. It is difficult to foretell what the final outcome will be, but there is no doubt that the ethnic factor will be an important determinant of the country's future.

The wars of the past have been terminated, but issues of social integration will continue to figure high on the Ethiopian agenda, pending the evolution of a system that permits enough space for all constituencies. The present arrangement is nowhere near fulfilling this desideratum since there are significant challenges yet to be addressed. Also, the task of rehabilitating a devastated economy and of meeting a huge backlog of economic and social problems has just began. And where poverty is so pervasive and so deeply rooted, it does not require particular foresight to recognize that it provides ample ground for the seeds of social conflicts to mushroom.

In Sudan, the tragedy of civil war continues to unfold to this day. The war, which run its first course during 1955-72, is since 1983 in its second and more destructive phase. Although it would be dangerous to look at the Sudanese conflict in simplistic terms, it is obvious that its dimensions are religious, cultural and regional. Assuming an essentially north-south divide which has pitted Islam against Christianity, the ethnic groups of the south against those of the north, and "Arab" against "African" culture, the conflict is nowhere near resolution in spite of recent military victories by the Khartoum regime and the fractured nature of the southern opposition. Yet it would be too simplistic to see this as the only source of social discord in the Sudan. Viewed more closely, neither the north nor the south is a homogenous entity, and there are tensions within each constituency which pose challenges to social integration.

Numerous attempts at international mediation have not succeeded in bringing an end to the Sudanese civil war, and its continuation has meant intolerable suffering for the people, especially those of the south. It is obvious that the longer the civil war is allowed to continue the farther will Sudanese society be from the objective of social integration.

However, the worst case of social disintegration in the region is Somalia. The paradox of the Somali crisis is that it cannot be explained by any of the conventional factors of ethnicity, religion or culture. For long taken as a textbook example of a homogenous society, Somalia provides a complex case of a society that has degenerated into anarchy in spite of its unique advantages. While history may provide a fuller perspective on Somalia's current predicament, the more recent origin of the crisis may be traced to the end of the 1977 war with Ethiopia. Somalia's defeat turned euphoria into disillusion and served an important catalytic role in the events that led to the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime in January 1991.

It is revealing that virtually all of Somalia's political organizations are organized along clan or sub-clan lines, and that clan politics holds the key to the chances for that country to be reconstituted as a working polity. To be sure, there are elements of personal ambitions and rivalries as well as economic interests involved, but a strategy that fails to bring about accommodation between the various factions, themselves based on clans, is likely to fail.

Djibouti has for long enjoyed the image of an island of peace in a turbulent sea. That image, although correct in a relative sense, is also deceptive because it glosses over the long-standing conflict between the two major constituencies of Djibouti - the Issas and Afars. In recent years, that country has been sorely tested by recurrent crises that have been flaring up along these lines. What complicates these crises is that each of the constituencies overflows into a neighboring country, Ethiopia and Somalia, which makes it impossible to look at them solely within the boundaries of the Djibouti state.

This can be said of inter-state relations for all countries in the Horn: Ethiopia with Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea; Sudan with Ethiopia and Eritrea; and Somalia with Ethiopia and Djibouti. In this sense, therefore, efforts to bring about greater social integration in the countries of the region cannot be confined to purely domestic ventures. Their chance of success will in no small degree be predicated on the extent to which they assume a regional dimension.

The negative effects of civil conflict on social development are all too evident; and they are many and far-reaching. In the first place, it disrupts tasks of economic development by obstructing production and trade, destroying infrastructure, and redirecting resources from construction to destruction. The dismal economic record of the countries of the Horn in recent years is without doubt partly due to the prevalence of civil strife.

Secondly, there are the more directly social consequences of conflict, including widespread death and disablement; exacerbation of famine conditions in war zones; disruption of the normal processes of life; conscription of one form or another; large numbers of displaced people and refugees (the Horn has the dubious distinction of leading the rest of Africa in this connection); disruption of socia services such as education and health; and its particularly adverse impact on certain constituencies of society, especially children and women (including the phenomona of child warriors, orphanhood, street children, and psychological traumatization).

Thirdly, civil conflict creates a general climate of insecurity and instability. In such a climate, the objectives of state and society are reduced to those of mere survival, and they are unable to develop the kind of long-term vision without which no meaningful development can be brought about.

It requires no elaborate proof that the countries of the Horn have suffered on all these counts. This is what makes the task of promoting social integration an over-riding one, a task - unfortunately - that has yet to begin in earnest.

7. Looking Ahead

As one looks ahead, there are a number of issues that deserve serious consideration if the problem of social development is to be actively tackled. First, although national efforts in this direction are clearly decisive, there is also a pressing need to address the problems of the Horn in a regional perspective. The people of the region do face a common destiny, and no serious development strategy can neglect a common approach.

Second, the three themes of the World Summit are highly intertwined, which means none of them can be effectively grappled with in isolation from the others. Thus, problems of poverty and employment cannot be meaningfully addressed in the absence of civil peace. Likewise, one cannot make a dent in the poverty problem without generating employment on a substantial scale; and stagnant economies cannot create jobs. Moreover, poverty and rampant unemployment are breeding grounds for social disintegration. These considerations dictate a comprehensive approach to social development.

Third, social development, like development in general, is predicated on the existence of a political commitment to put in place the institutions and mechanisms and to mobilize the resources required for progress. Economic development does not automatically lead to social development; and it is possible to make advances in the social field even with modest rates of economic growth, provided the political will exists.

Fourth, the political environment is very decisive in resolving social tensions. This is a broad issue that embraces questions of governance, the nurturing of a strong civil society, and cultivating a culture of tolerance. This is a rather tall order, but unless societies manage to institute mechanisms for the effective resolution of social tensions, armed confrontation will present itself as the only option, which is of course a recipe for disaster.

Fifth, the governments of the region (as well as NGOs and the international community) need to exert strenuous efforts to move the economies of the Horn off the dead center in which they now find themselves. But, as indicated earlier, no less important is the type of growth generated. In other words, one cannot afford to be oblivious of issues of distribution.

On the basis of the foregoing considerations, the following recommendations are addressed to the governments of the region, the international community and non-governmental organizations.


1. create an environment of political stability

institute democratic governmance; conduct politics that is inclusionary of all constituencies; promote culture of tolerance between ethnic groups, relegions, etc.; actively promote the resolution of conficts through peaceful means

2. forge a regional approach to solving the region's problems

strengthen regional bodies such as IGADD or create new ones that would serve as a collective forum for addressing the region's problems in a collective context; seek out ways for the joint development of the region's resources

3. formulate and implement policies for accelerating economic growth and development instiute the necessary policy reforms; actively pursue poverty alleviation and employment creation as specific objectives in their own right; re-order priorities of public spending to give greater attention to social development

4.develop and continually update a data base on the social situation create machineries for data collection and analysis; instiute organizational structures for monitoring the social situation, especially with respect to poverty

5.enhance capacity for policy analysis

The International Community

1. approach the problems of the Horn regionally

2. Create a joint forum for coordinating assistance to the region

3. encourage the governments of the region to set up a mechanism for consultation and decision making, either through strengthening IGADD or creating an alternative structure

4. raise the level of assistance to the region

5. re-orient the nature of assistance put greater focus on social developent; meet immediate and short-term needs while at the same time focussing on longer-term assistance for development

6. help in raising capacity for policy analysis in the region

7. encourage and assist the setting up of regional mechanisms for conflict resolution, internally within regions as well as between states

Non-governmental Organizations

1. Focus interventions more sharply on poverty alleviation

2. coordinate assistance

3.monitor the social situation, especially with respect to poverty

4. conduct micro-level studies on the social situation in specific areas

In conclusion, all concerned with social development in the Horn of Africa must recognize that the challenges are formidable and the constraints substantial, but that - given the political will - real progress can be attained in substantially improving the conditions of life in the region. If the will is wanting, all the rhetoric about social development will come to nought, and the people of the Horn will continue to live in poverty and insecurity.


1 There is a problem of inconsistency in data used from various sources. For instance, there is considerable divergence in the statistics obtained from the World Bank's World Development Report 1994, UNDP's Human Development Report 1994 and UNICEF's The State of the World's Children 1995. Although an attempt has been made to use data from one source for a given topic, this has proved difficult on account of lack of comprehensiveness in the various documents.

2 It ought to be pointed out that it is virtually impossible to obtain separate data for Eritrea. Most statistics include Eritrea within Ethiopia, and this is how the figures used in this paper should be interpreted. Of the three standard sources indicated in footnote 1, only the UNICEF publication lists Eritrea separately, but in most cases it merely repeats the figures for Ethiopia. Where this is not the case, it is not clear how the figures for Eritrea were established, which dictates caution in using them.

3 However, World Development Report 1994 puts Djibouti in the lower-middle income category although it does not give a figure for per capita income. On the other hand Human Development Report 1994 puts it in the low income category.

4 UNDP, Human Development Report 1994 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994). The tables mentioned, as well as most of the statistical information in this section of the paper, are taken from this report.

5 Djibouti is an exception. In the three countries, an average of 76% of the total population is rural, while the corresponding figure for Djibouti is only 14%.

6 Human Development Report 1994, p.155.

7 It should be noted, however, that these data do not cover recent developments - the decline in the relative share of military spending in Ethiopia and the impossibility of talking about government expenditure in Somalia, given the virtual breakdown of the functions of government there.

8 World Bank, World Development Report 1990 (Oxford University Press, 1990), p.26.

9 World Development Report 1990, p.28.

10 Human Development Report 1993.

11 ILO/JASPA, African Employment Report 1988, p.9. Virtually all of the statistics are taken from ILO/JASPA's employment reports for 1988, 1990 and 1992.

12 African Employment Report 1990, p.xiv.

13 African Employment Report 1988, p.ix.

14 African Employment Report 1990, p.24.

15 African Employment Report 1992, p.22.

16 African Employment Report 1988, pp.xi-xii.

From: Ben Parker,
Date: 06 Mar 95 13:18:16 +0300
Subject: InterAfrica Group's policy paper for the WSSD - February 1995
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