Social inclusion in Africa
Africa has garnered global attention for its many achievements and its dynamism, and at the same time, it has taken the spotlight for its substantial challenges. Poverty has declined, human development outcomes have improved, and dynamic social movements are helping to transform communities and bringing attention to previously stigmatized issues and people. Technological innovation has spread to many remote areas. New policies and programs across the continent have highlighted the importance of social inclusion.
African countries have led the charge towards progress in some domains; for instance, in the past decade, Africa has implemented the most reforms promoting gender equality of any region globally. Yet, as in other parts of the world, positive developments have been uneven in Africa. They have left many areas and groups behind.
“As African countries urbanize and undergo multiple transitions, it is more important now, more than ever, to ensure that no one is left behind,” said Maitreyi Bordia Das, lead author of the report and the World Bank’s Global Lead on Social Inclusion. “Persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, LGBTI persons, young people and ex-combatants are among the many groups that need our explicit attention. With a strong social contract, innovative financing and people’s participation, social inclusion in Africa is eminently within reach.”
Digital technology, for instance, can leave those who do not have mobile phones or Internet connections further behind. Similarly, improved infrastructure has provided better lives, but also carries risks, for instance, of lands being unfairly taken from those most powerless or of damage to the environment and livelihoods. Improvements in education and health can be concentrated in certain locations and benefit some groups more than others. Areas that experience state and societal fragility also fall behind in various development outcomes.
What is social inclusion?
The report Inclusion Matters in Africa defines social inclusion as “the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society,” following Inclusion Matters (World Bank, 2013).
It emphasizes disadvantage based on social identity and draws on distinct markers such as gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, location, occupation, race, ethnicity, religion, or citizenship status, among others. Yet, the intersection of identities bestows the real advantage or disadvantage.
In answer to the question “inclusion in what?”, Inclusion Matters answers: in markets, services, and spaces. Social inclusion is about enhancing the ability, opportunity, and dignity of individuals and groups to take part in society.
What does Inclusion Matters in Africa achieve?
For the first time, this report places the notion of social inclusion front and center in an analysis of Africa’s achievements and challenges. Its interdisciplinary approach uses evidence from varied sources to bring empirical weight to issues that are often debated through advocacy and contestation.
One of the main contributions of Inclusion Matters in Africa is that while it is grounded in the experience of African countries, it also shows that Africa’s challenges in social inclusion are not unique or exceptional. It highlights examples of the remarkable innovations that abound in Africa and of the policy and programmatic movement towards social inclusion. It surmises that social inclusion must be based on a clear social contract that recognizes both the costs and benefits of policies and interventions towards social inclusion.