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African ministers pledge to tackle poverty, inequality

26 February 2015, 08:23

Nairobi - Sub-Saharan African countries will scale up investments in social programs like education and health to tackle poverty and inequality, ministers said on Wednesday

Ministers, scholars and grassroot advocates attending a social development forum in Nairobi noted that endemic poverty, inequality and exclusion dims Africa's rising narrative.

Deputy President William Ruto opened the African ministerial forum that discussed innovative policy and funding options to accelerate socioeconomic transformation in the continent. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) organized the forum.

"As a continent, we need to start a new conversation on development models that are viable and trickles down to the grassroots," Ruto told ministers.

Ruto stressed that a paradigm shift in governance and management of public resources was urgent to catalyze an African renaissance. "Education is such an important social transformation tool that it is far too important to negotiate. We are deliberately expanding secondary school education because we want each child to get a real life time chance to acquire knowledge," Ruto said.

Noting that 31 percent of the entire budget in Kenya is spent on education, Ruto disclosed that the government had increased disbursements to schools this year from 308 million U.S. dollars to 440 million dollars, representing a 35 percent increment.

"Strong and committed leadership as well as accountability are required to implement policy recommendations on shared growth. Our countries cannot realize sustained and inclusive growth if policymakers are stuck in old ways," said Ruto.

Saying most of the African leaders governed in a global context that was averse to dramatic change, whether positive or negative, Ruto pointed out that it was for this reason that development discourse was about moderating expectations, justifying inequality and normalizing unsatisfactory socioeconomic circumstances.

Also read: Failure to reduce poverty threatens Kenya's economic success

Ruto, however, noted with satisfaction that the East African region had rediscovered her vision and ambition and discarded the snail's pace for a rapid, ambitious and comprehensive transformation.

"As a region we need to engage without looking back and develop, share and interrogate ideas, approaches, policies without looking back," he added.

The delegates said African countries must prioritize the war against poverty, climate change, inequality and youth unemployment to accelerate socioeconomic transformation.

Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, urged governments to develop policies that promote shared prosperity.

"Governments must channel investments towards programs that advance equity, environmental sustainability and peace. Other critical areas that demand attention includes maternal health and youth empowerment," said Kaloko, adding that AU's Agenda 2063 roots for harnessing of social capital among women and youth to power Africa's renaissance.

Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO, noted that rapid population growth, pressure on ecosystems and inequality could derail sustainable development in Africa.

"Africa's current economic progress has not trickled down to a huge portion of the populace. It is therefore crucial for governments to invest in social programs that would narrow this gap," Engida told ministers.

Cabinet Secretary for Devolution Ann Waiguru said the ministry's social transformation agenda is driven through its programs targeting youth women and vulnerable people.

She announced that the National Youth Service had increased intake form 4,000 to 21,870 annually, noting that the young people are trained at the NYS and sent into communities to work with and mentor anther 20,000 youths in squads of not more than 15 for a period of at least 3 months.

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- Xinhua

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