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The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Blog: Taking action to tackle child poverty and inequality in Africa

Photo: Rod Waddington/Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Mar 2017

In the last two decades there have been important strides in the fight against poverty. Nearly 1.1 billion people escaped extreme poverty since 1990 according to the World Bank and UNICEF. Notwithstanding these positive changes, poverty remains widespread with children being disproportionately affected. Children are more than twice as likely as adults to be in extreme poverty. Children in Sub-Saharan Africa face a particularly perilous situation; estimates suggest that at the current rate of progress, 9 out of 10 children in extreme poverty in 2030 will live in this region.

Solutions and actions to address child poverty in Africa

This is the driving force behind a partnership of local and international organisations and initiatives are joining forces to organise an international conference “Putting children first: identifying solutions and taking action to tackle poverty and inequality in Africa” from 23 to 25 October 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

This conference aims to build on the momentum generated with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. Target 1.2 in SDG1 on the eradication of poverty explicitly calls for the eradication of poverty in all its forms for children of all ages, making the elimination of child poverty a universal commitment as well as an urgent global priority

The event seeks to ensure that children remain at the top of the agenda, and to identify practical solutions for improving children’s lives. It will offer more than a ‘talkshop’ for academic researchers or platform for showcasing policies, but aims to identify proven policy solutions, stimulate debate around challenges and bottlenecks in achieving positive change and provide space for critical reflection and engagement between practitioners, policy makers and researchers joined in the fight against child poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bringing together a unique partnership

The three-day conference will be hosted by a unique partnership of the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP), Ethiopian Centre for Child Research, Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI), the ESRC-DFID Impact Initiative and the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty, including African Child Poverty Forum (ACPF), Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), Save the Children, UNICEF and Young Lives. 

The conference will focus on both higher-level engagement between key researchers and national and international policymakers. It will also concentrate on opportunities to share learning from policies, programmes and research projects, debate solutions to child poverty and gain skills for moving towards actions. 

Researchers, practitioners and policymakers are invited to submit proposals for paper presentation or other interactive engagements that provoke critical reflection and debate. The deadline for the submission of proposals is 30 April 2017

The conference will be framed around four themes:

1) Setting the scene: who and where are the poor children?

Recent estimates indicate that 385 million children live in extreme poverty worldwide. The poverty rates are highest among children in Sub-Saharan Africa; one in five children grow up in extreme poverty . The availability of data and efforts to measure and map child poverty have led to a rapid expansion in the evidence base on children’s living conditions as well as causes and trajectories out of poverty. Notwithstanding these achievements, considerable gaps in knowledge remain about who and where the poor and vulnerable children are. Children living outside of family settings, for example, are largely invisible in data and remain uncounted. This theme aims to provide insight into the plight of children that are often overlooked, and to strengthen data collection and measurement efforts to ensure that no child is overlooked in the future.

2) Child-sensitive social protection: making social protection work for children 

Child-sensitive social protection (CSSP) encompasses programmes that aim to maximise positive impacts on children and to minimise potential unintended side effects or perverse incentives. This includes both direct interventions (i.e. child-focused or targeted) and indirect interventions . Many programme evaluations have shown that social protection – and cash transfers in particular – improve living conditions, increase school enrolment and ensure that children see a doctor when they are ill. Evidence is also increasingly indicating that the provision of cash alone is not a ‘magic bullet’, that programmes may not benefit all family members – including children – equally, and that social protection may have unforeseen and sometimes adverse consequences. This theme aims to gain a better understanding of how social protection can be improved further to improve children’s outcomes, considering linkages to services and more tailored approaches to children among others.

3)  Ensuring access to basic services for all: reaching and linking the poorest and most marginalised children 

Despite great improvements in making basic services accessible to all children, many children remain deprived of education and basic healthcare. In 2016, only half of all children in Africa with pneumonia were taken an appropriate health provider and one in four did not complete primary education. Access to services is also uneven, with disabled children, children in illegal (urban) dwellings and children without parental care being among the most excluded and marginalised. This theme will aim to gain insights into how access to services can be secured for the most excluded and marginalised, including views on how to lift particular barriers as well as involvement of a social workforce and community-based mechanisms. 

4)  Supporting secure transitions to adulthood 

Youth represent the largest growing demographic group in Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 226 million people in 2015. Debates about young people and the future are dominated by unemployment, and findings ways for getting them into work. The move from adolescence into adulthood is representative of more than one transition; it also concerns decisions about (dis)continuing education and family formation, and is often a time when gender differences and social norms and values become more pronounced. This theme aims to explore how the ‘youth bulge’ can be considered a ‘demographic dividend’ as well as understand how young people can be supported to transition into adulthood in terms of education, work, family and aspirations. 


We hope that many will join us in this effort!


The Impact Initiative blog posts are either from individual researchers or from major research programmes. Some of the blog posts are original source and are written by researchers and experts connected to the two research programmes jointly funded by ESRC and FCDO: the Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research and the Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research Programme. Other blog posts are imported from related websites and programmes. 

The views expressed in these blogs reflect the opinions of each individual and may not represent the Institute of Development Studies, the University of Cambridge, ESRC or FCDO.


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