Education and Social Empowerment Toward Economic Independence and Poverty Reduction in Africa

Education and Social Empowerment Toward Economic Independence and Poverty Reduction in Africa

One of the important goals set in 2015 was eradication of poverty by 2030 embraced worldwide. An examination into the African population’s contemporary conditions along with its prospects for tomorrow reflect the fact that despite fundamental progress made in the continent since 1990s, poverty is still increasing and the problem has mainly remained unsolved. This means that by 2030, the African population’s poverty will still be about 20% and the global poverty will become mainly concentrated within Africa. Therefore, it seems that poverty reduction is this continent is a serious global challenge (Luc & Hill, 2018).

In this regard, education and social empowerment can help the African population to experience economic growth and accelerate poverty reduction. Lower access to education makes people unable to contribute to and participate in economic growth. According to the World Bank (2018b), there is widespread evidence on the important role of education in poverty elimination or at least reduction. Education contributes in the economic growth through improvements in labor force productivity, higher capacities to attract and adapt novel technologies to affect short- and medium-term growth, and also accelerating technologic advancements to promote long-term growth as well. Therefore, in general education seems to explain a considerable share of growth (Hanushek and Woessmann 2010; Jones 2014).

Education is expected to facilitate the absorption and adaptation of technologies which are previously available at the global level. As Castañeda et al. (2018) have shown, when the level of education increases, the likelihood of suffering poverty decreases. Accordingly, the individual level, the likelihood of being poor is 3%lower on average when an individual has some primary education, 7% lower given completed primary or incomplete secondary education, 10% lower given completed secondary education, and 12% lower given tertiary education when controlling other variables. This is to some extent associated with the sizable positive effects of education on income, which means that to grow out of poverty, Africa needs to minimize or eliminate constraints to income growth, and one way to attain this goal is through education.

On the other hand, social empowerment can come hand in hand with education, the most significant instance of which is reflected in the education of girls and women to exert positive impacts on their empowerment and lower their risk of being poor. Social protection contributes significantly for women’s empowerment and social protection floors, in particular, contribute to closing coverage gaps for women. Aiming at the prevention or alleviation of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion, social protection floors contribute to economic and social development (Plagerson & Ulriksen, 2015). The values of empowerment, participation, and accountability are key factors for the poverty reduction in Africa. Through this process, the African population can gain more power over the factors governing their social and economic progress. This may be achieved by increasing the incomes and assets of the poor, interventions that concentrate on enhancing confidence and self-respect as just some examples. As Luttrell et al. (2007) have pointed out, social empowerment can be realized by adopting strategies to empower excluded or discriminated-against groups. By empowerment, the citizens of the African society know their rights and responsibilities, and have access to forums and processes to practice these rights and responsibilities (Department of Arts and Culture, 2012).

Totally, the agenda to address poverty in Africa goes beyond shifting programs and policies and requires consideration of a variety of factors which interplay. As different actors in development circles have recognized, there is a need to focus on assisting the poor and empowering them through productive activities and social organization (ILO, 2014c). This way, it will be possible to offer significant opportunities for promoting social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and economic productivity, leading to economic independence and facilitating poverty eradication.


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Christiaensen, Luc, and Ruth Hill. 2018. “Africa Is Not Poorer than Other Equally Poor Countries in Reducing Poverty.” Background note prepared for Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa, World Bank, Washington, DC.
Department of Arts and Culture 2012. Creating a Caring and Proud Society. Pretoria: Department of Arts and Culture.
Hanushek, Eric A., and Ludger Woessmann. 2010. “Education and Economic Growth.” In International Encyclopedia of Education, 3rd ed., edited by Penelope Peterson, Rob Tierney, Eva Baker, and Barry McGraw, Vol. 2: 245–52. Oxford, U.K.: Academic Press.
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Jones, Benjamin F. 2014. “The Human Capital Stock: A Generalized Approach.” American Economic Review 104 (11): 3752–77.
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