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Forward-thinking African leaders sought


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Planeta Futuro - El País

Daniel Dols Bruno and David Soler Crespo |

NCID junior researchers at Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarra.

On Sunday, March 15, 2020, 10-year-old Emmanuella Njeri Muraguri was at home with her older brother, Prince. Her brother had promised her that he would play if she finished her homework and packed her backpack for school the next day, but when she got everything ready, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, appeared on television: "We have suspended teaching in all educational institutions with immediate effect". Njeri had been in the sixth grade for two months, but she would never pick up her backpack again until the following school year.

At first, she was happy: no school! But as the days went by, Njeri began to miss going to class. "She didn't see any of her friends, she didn't go swimming, she didn't even leave the house for Sunday mass. She was bored, but she endured the nine months," her mother assures. "During all that time she asked me a lot of things for which there were no answers, it was too long a wait," she admits.

In January, more than 17 million Kenyan students returned to school after a lost term. Despite reports that children under the age of 19 had only 9% of those tested positive for coronavirus, the government preferred to be cautious. However, this decision may have serious consequences. In the first days of the return to high school entities reported that thousands of students had not returned, especially adolescent girls in remote areas. In the first three months of confinement alone, 152,000 young women became pregnant, 40% more than the usual average .

This is compounded by the difficulty in following Education online. Kenya is the country with the highest percentage of population connected to the Internet in Africa with 87.2%, but the average is half that. Moreover, that does not guarantee having a computer and connection at home. Before the pandemic UNICEF already pointed to the lack of means for online study: more than 90% of households in sub-Saharan Africa do not have a computer and 82% do not have access to the Internet.

"Closing schools has a long-term effect deadline. If children don't go for six months, that has effects on Economics for 10 or 20 years," says Professor Dirk Krueger of the University of Pennsylvania. The World Bank estimates that the pandemic shutdown could cause up to $4,500 in losses for each sub-Saharan student . About 3,800 euros. School closures due to the coronavirus may end up with a lost generation of African students severely affecting the continent's development .

Africa has an age average of 20 years and population growth forecasts that one third of young people in 2050 will be African. Betting on the Education of youth is vital to ensure a correct development of the continent and access to employment opportunities commensurate with their training. Currently, 12 million enter the labor market each year, but only 3 million jobs are created work. The lack of qualified employment causes two out of three to be unemployed or in the informal market, without job security.

"The optimal policy in the face of confinement must take into account the age of the population," says Professor Krueger. "The health effects are concentrated among the oldest, while the long-term economic deadline effects weigh on the young population." Krueger mentioned these words at the Empowering Africa Workshop, an online workshop organized by the Navarra Center for International Development (NCID) of the University of Navarra at partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and reservation Federal of Philadelphia and attended by 70 students from 12 African countries. The event was aimed at goal to identify African talent and train the best economists of the future of the continent.

Africa has more and more economic leaders who are decision makers like the recently appointed head of the World Trade Organization, Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The continent's growth will require leaders like Okonjo-Iweala who have a solid understanding of Economics and can create models that assess the potential effects of their policies, as well as evidence-based assessment mechanisms. Academic institutions should be the ones to seek out and make the most of African human potential, with a focus on research as a catalyst for development. NCID's director , Luis Ravina, is clear: "Far from denying ourselves to a demographic and global leadership change that has no brakes, we must support and give the best of our abilities to participate in this process".