Urban and Rural Development and Empowerment

A Review of Urban and Rural Development and Empowerment in Africa: An Overview of Selected Countries (Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa)

Oluwadamilola Ogunwale and Emmanuel O. Benjamin

The United Nations defines poverty as a denial of choices and opportunities resulting in the violation of human dignity (United Nations, 1998). The World Bank (2001) further depicts extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.90 per day.

Explicitly, this implies lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in the society, which is in line with the Human Development Index (see United Nations, 2010) and may be broken down to three major components Health, Education and economic activities.

A report on “The health of the people” by the World Health Organization – WHO (2019) it is argued that Africa is confronted with one of the world’s most dramatic public health crisis. The healthcare crisis, among others, inefficient healthcare systems and shortage of health professionals. The physician per 1000 individuals for sub-Saharan Africa was estimated 0.2 as compared to 1.3 for middle-income countries in 2013 (World Bank 2019). The minimum recommended standards according to the WHO is one doctor per 1,000 individuals of the population (World Health Organization, 2006).

Regarding Education, the World Bank (2018) revealed that Africa faces a severe learning crisis that undermines economic growth and the well-being of its citizens. This study indicates that the African region has made considerable progress in boosting primary and lower secondary school enrolment but mostly  children of the rich, urban children and boys (unfortunately some 50 million children remain out of school due to poverty). Some recommendation of the study includes elimination of the high-stakes examinations between primary and lower secondary school to ensure student progression. Furthermore, the need for better teacher support and recruitment to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.

Youth unemployment, which is as an indicator of income, is a global challenge particularly in Africa. According to the African Development Bank Group – AFDB (2016) 420 million  African youth, aged 15-35, i.e. about 31% of the population are unemployed and discouraged, another 35% are vulnerably employed, and only 15% are in wage employment. This increase in youth unemployment is attributed to the shortage of job opportunities.  In order to reduce youth unemployment – through creation of 25 million jobs from 2016 to 2025 –  three sectors: Agriculture, Industry and ICT are vital (AFDB, 2016; Benjamin et al. 2018). To achieve this it is important to equip youth with skills that matches labor demand and by addressing gender imbalances and linkages challenges.

We shall focus on the aforementioned issues in four countries across the continent namely; Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.


In Cameroon, the percentage of physician per thousand trends has been inconsistent, however, in 2013, the density of doctors rose to twice the minimum recommended by the WHO standards to 1.9 per 1,000 inhabitants (World Bank, 2013). However, this does not say much about the quality of health care. Education in Cameroon is highly encouraged as the enrolment rates in secondary schools has been trending upwards from 33% in 2007 to 61% in 2016 and this can be attributable to the inclusion of ICT in the educational system (Josué, 2007). Total youth unemployment has been declining from 6.3% in 2010 to 5.7% in 2018 (WDI, 2019). A reason for this moderates decline may be due to creation of job opportunities in various sectors such as agriculture, mining, forestry, tourism and many others (World Bank, 2015).


In Kenya the physicians per 1,000 people in 2014 was 0.204, which is low compared to the WHO standards (WDI, 2019). In recent times, the government has increased public expenditure to health by building primary health care centers and recruiting more physicians (World Bank, 2014). Though primary school enrolment rates have been inconsistent, it remained above 105% between 2012 and 2016 while the secondary school enrolment rates have been trending upwards (WDI, 2019). The double-digit youth unemployment rate of 18.4% in 2018 is somewhat high, although about the lowest for a decade (WDI, 2019). The government has reformed its educational system such that vocational training is more inclusive, partnering churches on the provision of agricultural jobs and giving special considerations to young people when public contracts are announced (Danner and Nebe, 2016).


In Nigeria, physician per thousand people has been on an upward trend from 0.3 in 2005 to 0.4 in 2010 but does not meet the WHO standards (WDI, 2019). To meet WHO standards, the Federal Ministry of Health (2007) developed the National Human Resources for Health Policy and Health Strategic Plan to guide the implementation of the policy at all level in the late 2000s. Education wise, the school enrolment rate for the primary has had an inconsistent trend but from 2013 to 2016, there was a decline from 94% to 85% (WDI, 2019). Likewise, in the secondary level, 2013 had its peak with a figure of 56.2%, which reduced to 42% in 2016 (WDI, 2019). Youth unemployment is also a critical in Nigeria as the population of the country is growing at a geometric rate. Nevertheless, the trend has been downward sloping in recent times from 20.6% in 2016 to 19.7% in 2018 (WDI, 2019). While this can be acclaimed to be due to some incentives by the current administration such as N-Power programme, skill acquisition and loans granted to young entrepreneurs, evidence-based research is lacking.

South Africa

South Africa´s physician per 1,000 population ranging between 0.7 and 0.8 and though one of the highest in Africa it has not attained middle-income country level (WDI, 2019).  This progress has been achieved through the implementation of its various health policies. For instance, an innovation such as the new skilled health worker cadres policy and Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) policy (Labonté et al., 2015). Concerning education, the school enrolment rates from 1989 to 2016 went from 96% to 114% (WDI, 2019).  This is progress was due to programs such as the a change in the Curriculum, improvement of the school infrastructure, access to free education, and the provision of quality teachers (Elias Tibane, 2014). Like many other African countries, South Africa is confronted with immense youth unemployment. Its total youth unemployment rate in 2018 was 52.8%, which is considerably high (WDI, 2019).  Thus, evolution of certain policies by the government such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), Community Works Programme (CWP) and the National youth Service train South African youths in income generating activities (Lannoy et al. 2018).

In conclusion, shortages of health personnel’s, low enrolment rates at all levels of education and high rates of youth unemployment are signals of poverty in a country. Hence, in an attempt to eradicate poverty, the United Nations launched the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. The UN also had a Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) aimed at supporting a broad framework for poverty eradication and in an even more ambitious global effort; the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015. While some remarkable success has been made in Africa, achieving overall development target has been moderate, which calls for research that is more comprehensive.


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