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Poverty and inequality in Africa as seen by young researchers


On Tuesday, November 3, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, three young African researchers presented the results of their research into the social and economic impacts of poverty and inequality in Africa. They made this presentation as part of the 10th edition of the African Economic Conference, held this year in the Congolese capital from November 2 to 4, 2015.

Cameroonian Arlette Simo Fotso presented the results of her research into "Children's disabilities and education in Cameroon". An expert piece of research, it showed how Cameroonian children with disabilities are victims of social inequality and are condemned to a life of poverty.

A 1998 study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and quoted by the young Cameroonian researcher found that 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries did not go to school. In Cameroon, 69% of children with disabilities joined primary education, but only 13% completed it, according to the 2005 General Census of the Cameroonian Population.

"Any obstacle to education creates a future cost to the individual and to society as a whole," said Arlette Simo Fotso. Her study demonstrates that parents and society are responsible for the marginalisation of children with disabilities. Parents, because they do not take all the steps necessary to ensure these children are educated. Society, because it does not put in place all the infrastructure needed to meet their needs.

In conclusion, there is a need for awareness-raising campaigns for the parents of children with disabilities and public investment in order to take these children out of the marginalisation that confines them to chronic poverty.

Young researcher Ehouman Williams V. Ahouakan also presented the results of his research on the theme "Does school quality matter? The characteristics of primary schools and the intensity of child labour in Senegal". This research was prompted by an alarming figure published by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that estimated that 72 per cent of Senegalese children were subjected to domestic and economic work. The burden of this work is too heavy to bear for the educational success of children, said USAID.

The results of the two researchers' study show that parents turned their children away from the school system because of the different structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) imposed on Africa by some donors in the 1990s. As these programmes drastically reduced access to employment, young graduates from top universities swelled the ranks of the unemployed. Some parents, therefore, stopped thinking of education as a factor in social success and preferred to involve their children in economic activities.

Ahouakan’s study recommends that the Senegalese Government should improve the quality of school structures, the curriculum and the relationship between school and work in order to regain the lost trust of parents.

The research of Cameroonian Hyacinthe Kankeu Tchewonpi examined "Socio-economic inequalities of informal payments for health care: An evaluation of the 'Robin Hood' hypothesis in 33 African countries."

The young researcher came to the conclusion that it was the poor who paid bribes or "baksheesh" to gain access to health care. The rich do not fall for this because they know their rights and tend to frequent upscale health centres.

The low salaries of health personnel, the absence or insufficient numbers of doctors, endless queues in health centres and the absence of medicines force the poor to pay in the hope of gaining special treatment, the young researcher explained.

The study concluded that the solution would be to recruit a sufficient number of health-care workers, to pay them better, to make medicines available and to make the compulsory health insurance system the norm.  

All these young researchers were contacted and financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which sought to involve the continent's young researchers in the quest for appropriate solutions to eliminate poverty and inequality in Africa.

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