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Social policy challenges in Africa

Africa has undeniable potential in terms of natural and human resources. With an extremely rich subsoil and a population of around 1.4 billion, 62% of whom are under 25, the continent's underdevelopment is still a heresy. Indeed, Africa suffers from social imperfections, which remain a major challenge for most countries and hamper the development of their populations. This article looks briefly at the social challenges that underpin the precariousness and promiscuity of Africa's populations.

Poverty in Africa

As the saying goes, Africa is very rich, but also very poor. The continent abounds in priceless economic potential, but is crushed by poverty. Poverty is the mother of all social ills facing governments. Social policies are often poorly supported, and poverty reduction strategies continue to be inadequate or poorly designed by governments and their partners.

- Around 35% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 a day.

- Of the 47 Least Developed Countries, 33 are African, and 21 of these are at the bottom of the ranking.

According to the Institute for Security Studies, when COVID-19 broke out in 2020, around 30 million more Africans were pushed into extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 a day). Before the pandemic, over 445 million people - representing 34% of the African population - lived below the poverty line. Even then, this figure was almost nine times the average for the rest of the world.

Insufficient access to healthcare

Health remains one of the Achilles' heels of African governments. The health sector bears the brunt of the consequences of extreme poverty in many African countries. Above all, COVID-19 revealed the extreme fragility of this sector, which lacks everything:

- Life expectancy is 60, compared with 71 for the rest of the world.

- AIDS affects 4.7% of people aged 15 to 49, compared with 0.8% worldwide. Of the 35 million people living with HIV in 2013, 70% are from Africa. Life expectancy in South Africa, Africa's richest country, has fallen below 60 years due to the virus.

- Malaria persists and continues to wreak havoc.

- Infant mortality is 56 ‰ in sub-Saharan Africa compared with 32 ‰ worldwide in 2015.

According to DR Hammadoun Dia of UNDP Mali, "Africa remains the region of the world where health issues are the most important and critical. It should be recalled that of the 57 countries in the world suffering from a critical shortage of healthcare workers as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the Anand Baernighausen regression, 36 are in Africa (0.21 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants). Africa is home to just 1.3% of the world's healthcare professionals, despite bearing 25% of the global burden of disease.


Education remains one of the major challenges for the African content, whose population is still extremely young, as mentioned above, and needs access to knowledge and proper training. The inadequate resources of governments do not yet allow the necessary investments to be made in this sector. There are not only glaring infrastructure problems (Senegal, for example, still has over 4,000 temporary straw shelters), but also a lack of educational staff and logistical resources.

Of the 113 million children in the world who still have no access to primary education, Africa alone accounts for more than 42 million (UN, 2004), i.e. around a third of children who are not in school or who have never been to school. There are also problems in the strategic planning of education in Africa. The technical and scientific education and training sectors, for example, are still relatively underestimated. This reinforces the problem of the employability of young people on the continent.

Politics and governance

Poverty is certainly the mother of all ills in Africa, but it competes with the political situation, which can even be an aggravating factor. Social challenges are in fact aggravated by political conflicts leading to instability in several regions of the continent. Ethnic, territorial, post-electoral, and power-based conflicts are now compounded by terrorism, which has struck countries such as Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Mozambique, Libya, Algeria, and many others. Politicians are often accused of being interested only in their own stakes of power and might, and less in solving the ills that plague African nations. When it comes to good governance, they are also in the dock. Indeed, corruption and poor governance plague African countries and are at the root of underdevelopment. Lack of transparency and impunity lead to the misappropriation of public funds that should be invested in key sectors such as education, health, and agriculture. Above all, these failings continue to be at the root of extreme poverty and, above all, inequalities in development, even within countries.


Africa in the 21st century is still facing immense challenges that do not yet allow the continent to take up the challenge of emergence. Most countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, still lack basic structures and means of subsistence. Despite its economic potential, Africa is still relegated far down the list of nations due to the political and social challenges that its leaders are still struggling to overcome.

Sources :

L'Afrique est en train de perdre la bataille contre l'extrême pauvreté,

Les défis de la santé en Afrique : quel rôle pour le numérique ?

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