Windhoek — The future of about 76 million African children is doomed, with the likelihood of all of them ending up in poverty, because inequality on the continent has placed limitations on their surroundings.
This warning was issued by the African Progress Panel, a group of distinguished individuals from the private and public sectors, who advocate on global issues of importance to Africa and the world.
These are renowned politicians and philanthropists, many of who are from Africa, with former United Nations secretary-general and Nobel laureate Kofi Annan as the chair.
Other members include former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, renowned politician and wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Irish musician turned philanthropist Sir Bob Geldof.
According to the group many African children are prevented from reaping the benefits of the much celebrated economic growth on the continent.
This the group says should serve as a warning to African leaders who should ensure all African citizens have an equal share in the wealth of the continent or else "failure to generate equitable growth could result in a demographic disaster marked by rising levels of youth unemployment, social dislocation and hunger".
The group released its fifth Africa Progress Report 2012, titled 'Jobs, Justice and Equity: Seizing Opportunities in Times of Global Change' last week.
In it, the elders dismiss as "premature" the prediction of a larger than ever emerging middle class in Africa thanks to buoyant growth on the continent.
Their misgivings are based on the prevalent inequalities on the continent, with half of the population currently living in poverty.
Although the continent is poised for good economic growth, such growth would not translate into "demographic dividends" or equal share of wealth for ordinary citizens, unless drastic measures are taken to close the gap between the haves and the have nots, the group has warned.
"Disparities in basic life chances - for health, education and participation in society - are preventing millions of Africans from realising their potential, holding back social and economic progress in the process," states the report.
The report also notes that the need for equitable growth is all the more critical because of Africa's "profound demographic shift", which will see the continent's population double in three decades, and continue to rise into the second half of the twenty first century.
The report highlights that today, there are 70 million more Africans aged below 14 years than there were a decade ago. Over the next decade, that number will rise by another 76 million.
The report calls for a "relentless focus" by policymakers on jobs, justice and equity to ensure sustainable, shared growth that benefits all Africans. The group has urged African governments and development partners to draw-up urgent plans for a big push towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.
The report notes that Africa has seven of the world's fastest-growing economies, with 70 percent of Africa's population living in countries that have averaged economic growth rates in excess of 4 per cent over the past decade.
However, the report also notes that most countries are not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, flagging slow progress in areas such as child nutrition, child survival, maternal health, and education.