There is an African saying that goes: “Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” It should come as no surprise then that investments in the people of Africa, especially its youth, are the key to a prosperous future for the continent.
The greatest resource of any continent is its people. With more than 1.2 billion people, 43% of which are below the age of 15, Africa is well endowed with human resources. For the region to compete in the global, digitizing economy and to really make a dent in poverty, it is imperative that Africa’s young people and future workers are enabled to fully develop their human capital. Fortifying Africans to reach their full potential enables access to a world buoyant with opportunity and promise, and results in a high return on investment.
This is why we are excited to announce the launch of our Africa Human Capital Plan. The Plan is conceived as a means to support countries as they facilitate a people-driven development relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth. Through this plan, we will channel our resources and energy into helping governments create an enabling environment in which children enter school well-nourished and ready to learn, where students acquire real learning in the classroom, and workers participate in the job market primed for productivity.
Africa’s human capital indicators are undeniably in a dire state, yet we have seen countries turn things around. This proves that it is possible to make transformative changes that positively impact generations to come. The World Bank is at the forefront of aiding the region strengthen its human capital by providing core financial support and generating valuable knowledge work. We are helping countries eliminate stunting and malnutrition, access quality education, and close gaps in child and maternal health. We are also increasing financing for human capital in Africa, using available financing more strategically, and stepping up support for fragile and conflict affected populations.
Furthermore, we are working to empower women and girls to protect and build their human capital and accelerate a demographic dividend in their countries. And we are leveraging disruptive technology and innovation to boost outcomes and advance the delivery of critical services, particularly in hard to reach rural areas.
Improving human capital is everybody’s business. It requires actors in a range of sectors including governance, agriculture, water, transport, health, education, and social protection to adopt a more people centered lens to their operations. This is a long-term effort, but one that will reap great rewards.
I call upon every one of us to pull together to make human capital the force that drives Africa’s economic resurgence, and lifts people from poverty to prosperity. On behalf of the World Bank, we are committed to working tirelessly to support Africa’s most precious resource, its people.
-Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President, Africa