West Africa has potential, but the challenges facing the region are weighing against efforts at economic and social development. The region is also warming faster than the rest of the world as climate change accelerates.

“West Africa is warming faster than the world, with an additional level of 3.88°C per century against a global average of 2.2°C every 100 years. The year 2018 was the seventh hottest year in West Africa since 1950. The year was also marked by an above average rainfall with devastating floods that affected more than two million people in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Nigeria and Liberia,” says Mr. Bakary Dosso, the Director of the West African Office of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Mr. Dosso was speaking at the opening of the Twenty-second Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (22nd ICE), taking place in Robertsfield, Liberia from May 8 to 10, 2019.

He pointed out that these climate risks are part of the overall scenario foreseen by the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) over the period 2011-2040, which, among other things, points to an increasingly late start of precipitation in certain areas coupled with increased humidity.

“These developments are likely to affect the economic and social performance of the sub-region,” he warned.

The report on education in the region is also bad news. Commenting on education, Mr. Dosso said the quality and duration of education need to be significantly improved.

“Many of our children are dropping out of our national education systems too soon and without the minimum skills required. In two countries, less than 15 per cent of children reach the minimum threshold of reading and mathematics skills at the end of the primary cycle,” he said.

The quality of education in the region is poor with “average years of schooling is less than four years in nine countries,” Amadou Diouf, an Economist with the ECA West Africa Office said in a presentation.

Compounding the issues, the West African region is at the forefront of issues related to population dynamics and development.

“The region is home to 377 million people or 30 percent of the population of Africa in 2018. It is the most populated region of the continent growing at a pace of 2.7 per cent per annum. It will double every 25 years, Ceteris Paribus,” Mr. Dosso said.

He noted that the population of the region is very young with 44 percent of individuals under 15. The region records a high fertility rate of 5.5 children per woman.

“With these dynamics, in 2030, just eleven years from now, additional 135 million people will be added to the total population of West Africa. This represents five times the current population of Ghana or 27 times the current population of Liberia. This comes along with growing social demand in health, education, nutrition, housing and labor supply, to name just a few. Hence the urgent need to adapt economic conditions to these pressing demographic dynamics,” he said.

This Meeting being held under a regional context marked by the entry of the United Nations, African Union, ECA and ECOWAS reforms in their decisive phases, is also marked by the continuation in planning, by States, aimed at better improving a slow-paced development despite the decade of economic growth in the West African countries.

The main objective of this meeting is to discuss recent developments likely to impact economic and social development in West African countries, with a view to identifying major challenges to be addressed and to proposing guidelines for accelerating sustainable development in West Africa through the transformation of the economies of the Sub-Region.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, Robertsfield, Liberia
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