In the quest for economic growth in Africa who is getting left behind and why?
In May, the World Economic Forum on Africa brought together 500 business leaders and other participants to discuss transforming Africa.
Their agenda was framed by the view that in 2012 "Africa's projected growth rate of 6% will be driven by improved macroeconomic and political stability, an ongoing resource boom and a growing consumer base" [PDF].
At the same time the Diverse Voices 2012 initiative, led by IDS Knowledge Services, brought together twenty-four people from a range of backgrounds into three small groups in Malawi, Ethiopia and Kenya to discuss what they thought were the burning, upcoming issues in their countries.
The groups were intended as a forum for those whose opinions do not had an equal chance of reaching lawmakers, practitioners, researchers and journalists. They included students, community leaders, street vendors, social and gender activists, nurses, taxi drivers, church youth workers, peer educator for sexual minority groups, roadside traders, clerks and pastors.
Experiences of exclusion
What emerged, amongst participants were concerns about corruption in politics and state bureaucracy, food prices rises, poor access to health care and sexual and reproductive health rights, unemployment and barriers to entrepreneurship, child labour and the hidden costs of free education, and the effects climate change and extreme poverty. In many ways, these concerns reflected experiences of exclusion, frustration and disempowerment.
Here are some examples:
"The stereotype about slums affects those living in these areas in their search for job opportunities and acceptance in different social circles. There is a perception that just because you come from a slum area you are only suited for certain menial jobs like security and cleaning. Slum tourism is increasingly popular, focusing on the negative aspects and not highlighting what people are doing to make their lives better"
"Lack of compulsory and accessible education, combined with hight poverty levels have contributed to uncontrollable child labour incidents especially in the rural areas where children are forced to work in the tobacco and tea estates for very little pay or for food."
"Tobacco is one of our country's mainstays, and is mostly grown by smallholder farmers. The tobacco leaf is bought from the farmers by intermediate buyers at very low prices because most of the farmers are not educated and are easily taken for a ride. The intermediate buyers take the crop to the auction floors where multinational companies also offer low prices and shortchange the nation in the process. As we do not process tobacco, we lose out on the bigger benefits."
"Personal insecurity is major concern - whether it relates to a rise in unprotected sex, a lack of positive inclusion of sexual miinority groups, fears of a repeat of election violence, the taboo of mental health illness (and its association with witchcraft) and the effects of substance abuse."
The issues suggested were diverse but after prioritising them a key question emerged "In the quest for economic growth in Africa who is getting left behind and why?".
Join the alternative global debate on economic growth in Africa
On the 7th of June Diverse Voices 2012 becomes a global debate as people on Facebook and Twitter discuss Who is getting left behind in the quest of Economic Growth in Africa and why? and we would like you to join the debate.
If you feel excluded from global conversations and want to challenge agenda setting in the development sector, this is your opportunity to contribute to the debate. If you believe you have relevant research or policy perspectives to share, now is the time to engage on equal terms. We hope that in this global conversation, sparks will be struck, difference will be celebrated and new agendas will emerge.
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