It's a new year with opportunities on the horizon for all. While 2023 will present unique problems to tackle, Africa still has many old issues that require attention. The previous year was one for the books with the challenges each country faced and the collective hardships the continent experienced, from global political unrests like the Ukraine war heavily affecting Africa's economy and raising the cost of living to the point where civilians took to the streets in protest to natural disasters like the Nigerian floods claiming multiple lives on various occasions. However, some issues cannot be ignored and must be taken seriously this year as their severity increases, further jeopardizing African lives. Here are four problems that Africa should priorities in 2023.
Food insecurity in Africa is a longstanding issue. Many countries have grappled with famine for decades on end. In addition, the prevalence of droughts in vast regions of the continent places' civilians in disadvantaged positions. In 2022, reports showed that Kenya's ASAL region was experiencing its worst bout of drought in the last decade. As a result, "4.2 million people, representing 24% of the ASAL population, face high levels of acute food insecurity, 2.7 million people are in the Crisis phase, and 785,000 are in an emergency state." In August, citizens filled the streets of Sierra Leone's capital city Freetown to protest the rising food and energy costs due to the global economic downturn.
A 2020 article from Brookings states that this issue should be a priority over the next decade. A way to help enact progress would be to leverage science and digital technology. "Digital tools can enhance food availability and accessibility, as well as improve food utilization and safety through effective monitoring of food hazards," the article elaborates.
In August alone, Nigeria's rainy season claimed dozens of lives as floods befell various parts of Lagos. Boat passengers were in trouble as they'd capsize enroute due to heavy torrential rains. Reports warn that Lagos could soon be unlivable because of rising sea levels caused by rapid climate change, and a study claimed that by 2100, sea levels could reach 59cm. Compounded with inadequate and ill-maintained drainage systems, stern preventative measures require immediate attention.
"The frequency of droughts has dramatically increased, from an average of once every 12.5 years over 1982-2006 to once every 2.5 years over 2007-2016," Brookings adds that they have become "more severe and prolonged, diminishing the productive capacity of the land." As suggested above, leveraging science to adapt to climate change could help keep Africa above water. "In places where climate-smart agriculture is practiced today, farmers are seeing increased food security and resilience. In Rwanda, for example, the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting, and Hillside Irrigation project has helped control erosion, intensify yields on existing land, and provide greater protection from droughts. Under this program, maize yields increased 2.6 times between 2009 and 2018, with even larger increases for beans, wheat, and potatoes." Africa needs to focus on rigorous planning and the implementation of long-term measures, not just this year but in the near future. Extreme weather conditions worsen annually, and prevention will always be better than cure. The situation is already dire; however, neglecting it only puts a stamp on the continent's instability.
Africa prides itself on the quality of educated youths the continent produces. Statistics show that Sub-Saharan Africa possesses the world's youngest population, with "more than three-fifths of its inhabitants under the age of 25." Statista.com claims that by 2020, 14% of East African youth had an upper secondary or tertiary education, while Central African youth made up 18%. The West African and Southern African youth populations comprised 23% and 28%, and North Africa boasted a whopping 47% of higher-educated youths.
However, youth unemployment is on the rise. According to the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), employment demand growth in the formal sector in Africa has not kept up with the pace of graduates from secondary and tertiary institutions. "Depending on whose figures you're looking at, the unemployment rate on the African continent is up to 50% of its entire population," states Invoice Nigeria.
The youth are ready and willing to enter the workforce. Still, unfortunately, many are deterred by the number of obstacles preventing them from successfully landing jobs that 1) they are passionate about and 2) they have studied. As a result, it is common to find a young master's graduate unemployed for five years or working a job unrelated to their qualification to make ends meet.
These issues have plagued Africa and its people for decades, when there are activists who have tasked themselves with raising awareness and going above and beyond to affect change as best as they can. But are African governments willing to transform the lives of their governments, or will corruption and ill governance continue to reign?