Sunday, 11 May 2014

Attaining inclusive growth requires policies that favor the agriculture sector

When all Kenyans have opportunities to create and grow their own small businesses, to own an affordable home, save college funds for their children, to invest and save for retirement, the country will have a sustainable and flourishing economy.

However, this is not the case.

Kenya is at a center stage where despite the immense percentage joining the job market from the tertiary institutions in line with the Vision 2030 -where its development will be driven by middle-level skills that are technical and hands on – the quality is being questioned.

This is a reflection across the East African Region, The Daily Monitor in its article, Ugandan pupils worst at counting, reading in EA from the Uwezo East Africa 2013 findings show there are large differences in learning achievements among the three countries with Kenya performing better at 68 per cent in both numeracy and literacy skills compared to Tanzania at 50 per cent and Uganda at 38 per cent.

However, despite Kenya doing better, the report titled, “Are Our Children Learning? Literacy and Numeracy Across East Africa 2013” stated that, “…it is home to the worst performing districts in the region demonstrated in stark inequalities.”

On the other hand, a report released by the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Analysis and Research (KIPPRA) “Kenya Economic Report 2013 - Creating an Enabling Environment for Stimulating Investment for competitive and Sustainable Counties,” shows that Kenya’s labour force has relatively low education attainment compared to middle-income countries. About 65 per cent of the population has only primary or incomplete secondary education, while another 10 per cent has never attended school.

This is in contrast to the Vision 2030 goal where Economic transformation requires skills and innovation, which make the development of human capital key for county development.

In contrast, the report cites that the financial sector plays a critical role in the development process. However, it calls for strategies that can enhance long term capital.

The key is bridging the poverty gap currently between 44 and 46 for the last six years where poor people in the rural areas have, on average, much lower incomes compared to the poverty line, and their income distribution does not seem to change much over the years.

This is because many are employed within the informal sectors that are characterized by low productivity, low pay and high levels of unpaid family employment. Informal sector employees are also often excluded from social security schemes, and labour protection legislation.

Grain Fish Money Africa Progress Report 2014 released during the 24th World Economic Forum Africa Abuja, Nigeria by the Africa Progress Panel noted that, “Africa may be showing impressive headline growth, but too many of our people remain stuck in poverty.”

“This year’s Africa Progress Report finds that if we want to accelerate Africa’s transformation, then we have to significantly boost our agriculture and fisheries, which together provide livelihoods for roughly two-thirds of all Africans,” Kofi A. Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel.

The forum centered by the theme of forging inclusive growth and creating jobs for Africa’s growing population.

The report says education is a constraint. "When it comes to transformation, a skilled workforce maters - and Africa has a large skills deficit. In an increasingly knowledge based global economy, these education gaps limit the potential for trans-formative growth."

The Panel proposed five key areas as practical areas that could meet the challenges.

A key recommendation was of inclusive growth and expanded opportunity as essential to eradicate poverty linked to the Post 2015 development agenda. According to the report, “The percentage of Africans living in extreme poverty has declined by 10 points since 1999, but the absolute number of poor has increased with population growth. Almost half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s people – 413 million – live below the US$1.25 threshold for extreme poverty.”

“The percentage of Africans living in extreme poverty has declined by 10 points since 1999, but the absolute number of poor has increased with population growth. Almost half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s people – 413 million – live below the US$1.25 threshold for extreme poverty.”

To make a turnaround, it says,
 “For Africa, the policy objective should be on growth with redistribution; in other words, making sure the poor receive a higher share of any increment to growth than their current share. This challenge turns the spotlight squarely on the composition of growth and the imperative to increase agricultural productivity.”

Other policy recommendations include:

  • Africa to accelerate a uniquely African green revolution;
  • Stop the plunder of natural resources;
  • Invest in infrastructure and develop more inclusive financial systems to achieve a breakthrough in improving people’s lives by closing the twin deficit in infrastructure and inclusive finance and;
  • Mobilize resources for inclusive growth;

On the other hand, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Sahara Africa- Fostering Durable and Inclusive Growth report released in April 2014 notes that Sound economic policies, stronger institutions, and higher levels of public and private investment have ensured a sustained economic growth in most African countries. As a result led to higher standards of living, poverty reduction and improved social indicators.

However, “Poverty remains pervasive and living standards need to improve further.”

And to make growth more inclusive, IMF says the overarching policy challenge is to create conditions for taking advantage of a possible demographic dividend.

It  proposes two policy areas that need to be focused on.

First, expanding job opportunities is essential for both further raising per capita GDP growth and reducing poverty. We show that household enterprises are the most likely source of jobs for the majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa, at least over the short and medium term. 
Policies should focus on removing obstacles to investment in the service and agricultural sectors—where the bulk of household enterprises perform their activities. The resulting productivity gains would favor the structural transformation process that would shift labor out of agriculture. 
Second, financial inclusion can play a key role in improving welfare for the poor, and in removing financing obstacles to entrepreneurial activity. Here, the policy emphasis should be on creating an enabling environment to reduce transaction costs by exploiting new technologies, such as mobile and agent banking.

Fostering inclusive growth requires policies that favor both raising income and lowering Poverty.

  • Maintaining a stable macroeconomic environment, especially low and stable inflation; 
  • Upgrading infrastructure; 
  • Diversifying the structure of the economy through reforms that increase competitiveness and gradually reduce the share of agriculture in GDP; and 
  • Fostering sound financial systems that safely deliver financial depth and inclusion.

In comparison with the Africa Progress Report, IMF emphasizes on the need to invest more in human and physical capital, both private and public in order to raise agricultural productivity and encouraging economic diversification.

This can be achieved by governments providing the following:
A business environment that does not overburden them with taxation or regulation. At the moment, household enterprises often pay taxes at a higher rate than large businesses, but receive little in return. 
Supplementary services such as security, sanitation, electricity, transport, and water supply, among others, that could be thought of as the business infrastructure of the economy.
Technical training on job-relevant skills, including business and financial literacy skills to help improve human capital. 
Raising productivity in the agricultural sector through appropriate land reform accompanied by improvements in physical infrastructure and increased crop yields. This could assist the structural transformation process and generate widespread economic gains. 
Policies for financial inclusion that permit their access to financial services (including credit, banking services, and insurance products).

Monday, 5 May 2014

Investing in education for women key in controlling population growth

The wealth of a country is measured in terms of resources that the country has. This is also true that the gross National product (GNP) is a measure of a per capita income. Therefore, since each and every person of the country is included, the level of economic growth will depend on the participation of each person of the society in economic production.

Today, we are 7 billion people all over the globe.

The last census undertaken in Kenya (in 2006) placed the population at 36.1 million. 

In 2008 the population of Kenya was estimated at 38 million by the United Nations Population Fund. 

At the current annual growth rate of 2.8 percent - which is itself considerably higher than the world's average of 1.2 percent - the Kenya population is projected to stand at 51.3 million in 2025 and 65 million in 2050 statistics according to the Kenya Demographics Profile 2011.

Kenya is faced with a myriad of problems, trying to feed its people, provide employment to its youth, quality and affordable education and health care.

Consequently, it is not a national issue to Kenya alone, but a global one, that poses a challenge from a growing population and its impact on health care, food security, jobs, and poverty.

To address these global issues, it needs concerted efforts from all nations on how to think of population control. Global consensus and cooperation is needed to achieve this. 

"Failure to address high fertility with large and growing population cohorts results in unsustainable health care and schooling costs and lags in economic growth, and may increase the risk of social and political unrest. But, addressing high fertility is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to harness the demographic dividend."
Ten years ago, the Government committed itself to ensure that Millennium Development Goal number five was realised by 2015. The goal states: Achieving good maternal health requires quality reproductive health services and well-timed interventions to ensure a woman’s safe passage to motherhood.

Baeza proposes the need to invest in new generations and create an environment conducive to good jobs.

He states, greater investment and policy efforts to reduce the barriers to family planning and reproductive health services (including availability of contraceptives and services, as well as empowering women to access them) is essential if the demographic dividend is to materialize at all noting it as a  priority for the World Bank's Reproductive Health Action Plan 2010-2015.

The Action Plan notes that, MDG for maternal health is one where the least amount of progress of all the MDGs has been made to date globally. It says, even in countries like with relatively good reproductive health outcomes, access to family planning, antenatal care, and delivery assistance among the poor and other vulnerable groups tend to be far worse than the national average.

Read: Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2013

This means, Law makers need to play a vital role in making maternal survival a national priority and supporting enactment of supportive legislation that addresses root causes of maternal death and disability from pregnancy.

MDG five can be achieved but only if there is political will and financial investment. The government should increase financial allocations for maternal health programmes to ensure all women in Kenya, regardless of their social status, have access to the quality maternal health services. 

According to Western Provincial Public Health Nurse Mrs. Assumpta Matekwa, maternal Mortality Rate in Kenya stands at 488 deaths per 100,000 people and the deaths are as a consequence of unsafe abortion, pregnancy or delivery; where a significant proportion of these deaths could also be avoided through the effective use of family planning.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) 2013 report, “Implementing Free Maternal Health Care in Kenya - Challenges, Strategies, and Recommendations,” noted that only 44 per cent of births in Kenya are delivered under the supervision of a skilled birth attendant, well below the target of 90per cent of deliveries by 2015. Traditional birth attendants continue to assist with 28per cent of births, relatives and friends with 21pc, and in 7pc of births, mothers receive no assistance at all.

On June 1, 2013, the Government of Kenya took action to address this problem by initiating a policy of free maternity services in all public facilities, effective immediately. Subsequently, it committed Sh3.8 billion to fund the free maternal health care program, with an additional Sh700 million for free access to health centers and dispensaries, Sh3.1 billion for recruitment of 30 community nurses per constituency, Sh522 million for recruitment of 10 community health workers per constituency, and Sh 1.2 billion for provision of housing units to health care workers, within its overall allotment of Sh10.6 billion for health care in the 2013/14 national budget.

Additionally, Kenya’s First Lady Margret Kenyatta has initiated the “Beyond Zero Campaign” to improve maternal and child health outcomes as part of the initiatives outlined in the Strategic Framework in HIV control and promotion of maternal, newborn and child health in Kenya that was unveiled on World AIDS Day 2013.

The strategic framework focuses on five key areas:
  • Accelerating HIV programmes, 
  • Influencing investment in high impact activities to promote maternal and child health and HIV control, 
  • Mobilizing men as clients, partners and agents of change, 
  • Involving communities to address barriers to accessing HIV, maternal and child health services and 
  • Providing leadership, accountability and recognition to accelerate the attainment of HIV, maternal and child health targets.

Sharon Astyk, a science writer, in her "7 Billion: Understanding the Demographic Transition" outlines factors that work to limit population growth deserve some greater attention:
Education, works in several ways.

Literacy for women benefits families in a number of ways. It increases her health (a literate woman can read material about health and hygiene practices) and the health of her children, it increases her family's security (if her husband dies, she can get a better job), it increases her desire to see her children receive education and it increases her political power - she can read and understand national issues and participate in them.

Mandatory education for all children serves to remove children from the labor pool, and makes children not producers, but consumers, and thus parents are forced to view their children in that light. 

Former President Mwai Kibaki's call in October during the launch of Africa Women’s Decade 201xc0-2020 he said:
 “Education holds the key to unlocking many of their obstacles facing women and girls. However, attaining and ensuring completion of education by girls is still a challenge due to dropout rates as a result of teenage pregnancies, early marriages, and negative social cultural attitudes.”
KNCHR emphasizes on, 
“Broader health education with a focus on maternal health issues, gender equality, and reproductive rights is also essential. Women need to be taught to recognize the signs of complications early and empowered to make decisions about their health. Men, too, should be enlisted in the battle to safeguard maternal health.”

Astyk  further says food security, including price supports, and many other possible programs improves the likelihood of having healthy and non-disabled infants, it makes it less necessary to set children to work finding food, and it makes it possible for women to reserve time for public participation and education - a beneficial circle.

Basic health care and hygiene matter because they reduce infant and child mortality, reduce harm in childbirth, and enable women to take advantage of contraception when they want it. They also make childbearing less dangerous, which paradoxically reduces birthrates, because it increases family stability and reduces rates of disability and death within families that drive children out to work at early ages.

With the above, she reiterates that, the thing is political power for women, food equity and access to clean water and freedom from war and rape are good things in and of themselves - they benefit everyone in the community. That they also help stabilize a world population that is in part straining every resource we have is just another factor.