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Rapid population growth in the poorest countries, especially in Africa, puts past figures in poverty reduction at risk, according to the second annual Goalkeepers Data Report by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last week. The report states that if current trend continues, the number of extremely poor people in the world could reverse its two decade decline, and even rise.
While the projections seem to be alarming, the Foundation expresses optimism in that today’s growing youth population could drive progress and that is why investment in health and education of young people would be instrumental in unlocking productivity and innovation, leading to what is referred to as the “third wave” of poverty reduction following the first wave in China and the second in India.
“The conclusion is clear: To continue improving the human condition, our task now is to help create opportunities in Africa’s fastest-growing, poorest countries,” Bill and Melinda Gates write in the introduction. “This means investing in young people. Specifically, it means investing in their health and education.”
Using new data projections, the report reveals that poverty within Africa is concentrating in just a handful of countries, which are among the fastest-growing in the world. By 2050, more than 40 percent of the extremely poor people in the world will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.
While in the past the large youth population has helped drive economies and reduce poverty, unless leaders invest in the youth, the population boom could become a liability.
The report examines promising approaches in health and education, highlighting ways that young people could help transform the continent. According to the report, investments in health and education, or “human capital,” in sub-Saharan Africa could increase GDP in the region by more than 90 percent by 2050.
Every year, the report tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals. This includes child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion, and sanitation. Projections provide three potential scenarios for indicators: better and worse scenarios based upon accelerating or reducing the rate of progress, and projections based upon current trends.
The report explores four topics in-depth; Family Planning, HIV, Education and Agriculture.
The Family Planning section underlines that according to data from the United Nations Africa’s population is projected to double in size by 2050 and could double again by 2100. If every woman in sub-Saharan Africa were empowered to have the number of children she wants, the projected population increase could be up to 30 percent smaller, from 4 billion to 2.8 billion.
Most importantly, this would enable more girls and women to expand their horizons, stay in school longer, have children later, earn more as adults, and invest more in their children. The chapter also explores how a novel family planning program in Kenya is providing young women with access to contraceptives.
Bill and Melinda Gates will produce the Goalkeepers Data Report every year through 2030, timing it to the annual gathering of world leaders in New York City for the UN General Assembly. The report is designed to highlight best practices and help hold the Gates Foundation, its partners, and leaders around the world accountable.