by Alex Osei-Boateng
ACCRA, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Poverty and illiteracy are two major drivers of human exclusion in West Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said in a report on Monday.
Launched in Ghana, the Africa Social Human Development Index (ASDI) report said results from the region had shown that, notwithstanding high economic growth in the past two decades (1992-2013), countries were still confronted with the challenges of making growth more inclusive and equitable.
The report, which was prepared on the basis of eight out of the 16 West African countries, mentioned poverty as the significant driver of human exclusion in all the countries studied while illiteracy was cited as the key contributor to exclusion in at least five countries.
In its 2016 report, the ECA said the emergencies faced by many West African countries, for example, the Ebola outbreak of 2014, had had lingering effects on food inflation and household disposable income for its allocation to education services.
The ASDI report said the study had justified in part the sub-region's prominent policy focus on educational development.
However, several challenges confront the sub-region with regard to education, relating mainly to quality, quantity and gender disparities.
Even though access is gradually improving and the gender gap has marginally narrowed, although not at the rate required to efficiently influence poverty reduction, quality remains a major problem.
In a message to launch the report, Ghana's Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection Otiko Afisa Djaba said the index would assist her outfit in the human development approach to and support of achieving the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and building a more peaceful and equitable Africa.
"It is our hope that the launch of this report and the presentation on Ghana Country profile will enable us have a better understanding and insight into the implementation of social policy programs in Ghana and the West African region and thereby utilize the index for advocacy and related issues for the poor and vulnerable in our society," she said.
The Social Affairs Officer at the Social Development Policy Division of ECA, Jack Jones Zulu, urged West African countries to harness the potential of their youthful resources to contribute to economic development through growth.
"So, if we invest in the youth, we will generate the services that are necessary for investment to bring about growth," he told Xinhua.