Top challenges facing Africa today

Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent. It has the youngest amongst all the continents and hosts a large diversity of ethnicities, cultures and languages.

All of these features made the continent face the hardest challenges in the world.

Poverty

Although the poverty rate in Africa has dropped in recent years, rapid population growth means that the number of people suffering poverty keeps growing: from 280 million in 1990 to an estimated 330 million in 2012.

Poor Education

More than two out of five African adults cannot read or write.

Ill Health

Health outcomes are worse in Africa than anywhere else in the world, even though life expectancy at birth has risen and chronic child malnutrition has declined since the mid-1990s.

Violence

Tolerance of domestic violence is twice as high as in the rest of the developing world. Incidents of violence against civilians are on the rise. While this litany of suffering is true throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with regard to all these measures life is particularly harsh for people living in the roughly 34% of Africa where states have collapsed to the point of irrelevance.

Hunger

Of the 20 countries in the world with the worst food and nutrition security, 19 are in Africa.

Sustainable agriculture, nutrition and food security

Inadequate investment in sustainable agriculture and significant social protection remain the major blocks to enhancing food availability. Climate change has also adversely affected many countries in Africa and compromised their ability to feed their people.

Access to financing

About 70 percent of Africans work in agriculture, but only 10% of the total portfolios of commercial banks goes to agriculture, according to the World Bank. Challenging legal and financial environments are constraining growth in African agriculture. For smallholders, especially, credit is often inaccessible or not affordable. Without appropriate financing, farmers are not only less able to invest in their operations but also much more vulnerable to market volatility and unpredictable weather.

Economic growth rate is far too low

Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP per capita (at constant 2005 prices) was $1,036.10 in 2014. At the 1.4-percent growth rate estimated for 2015, it would take Africa 50 years to double GDP per capita.

In addressing all these continental issues, the new AU will require working with several new leaders across Africa since several key elections are taking place in 2016, including Uganda, Chad, Central African Republic and Ghana. However, such changes could also offer opportunities for building on the international momentum for development and change, thus driving real growth in Africa.

Cover credit: The Guardian