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Global Economic Crisis and Children: Effects and policy options in West and Central Africa

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0967/Olivier Asselin - Children play on a swing outside Kotonli Kindergarten in the village of Kotonli in Savelugu-Nanton District in Northern Region - Ghana

The 2008-2009 global financial and economic crisis had, and continues to have, complex and profound impacts on countries around the world, including in West and Central Africa. While signs of recovery were visible in most of the economically advanced countries from late 2009, the consequences of the crisis on poverty and well-being risk being felt throughout the world over a longer period, in particular in the absence of appropriate policy interventions.

In this context, children are at high risk of suffering serious consequences from the crisis and being neglected in policy responses. The economic and social impacts of the crisis vary from country to country, mainly depending on their degree of integration into the global economy and their capacity to implement appropriate policies to respond to the crisis. From the beginning, policy attention was primarily concentrated on the macroeconomic and financial implications of the economic downturn. Less attention was devoted to the poverty impact of the crisis, in particular in low- and middle-income countries. In fact, lack of data and, as a consequence, of timely understanding of the potential magnitude and nature of the effects on poverty, hamper setting appropriate policy responses that can counteract the impact of the crisis and protect societies.

Economic simulation models based on rigorous analysis of the transmission mechanisms at both the macro and micro levels can provide important elements to improve understanding of the social impacts of economic shocks and support the implementation of policy responses.

In 2009, UNICEF launched a research project to develop and apply a combined macro-micro economic model to simulate the impact of the global economic crisis on children in three countries of West and Central Africa, namely Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ghana. The research was carried out by a team of international and national researchers from the Poverty and Economic Policy (PEP) Research Network and the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (IRC). A predictive model was developed to simulate the impact of the global crisis on different dimensions of child well-being (i.e. monetary poverty, insufficient food caloric consumption and risk of hunger, school participation, child labour, and access to health services), and to indicate alternative policy response options over the period 2009-2011.

This study is among the first attempts to use economic models to predict the potential effects of the global crisis on children. It proposes an innovative tool for an early understanding of the impacts of macroeconomic shocks on child well-being. The three countries in West and Central Africa included 0in the study represent some of the diversity of economic characteristics in the region: Burkina Faso, a landlocked country with little integration into the world economy, mainly exporting agricultural raw materials such as cotton; Cameroon, a moderately integrated country exporting natural resources such as oil and timber; and Ghana, well integrated into the global economy and exporting both agricultural goods (cocoa) and natural resources (gold and timber) with significant inflows of foreign investments over the past decade.

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  • Global Economic Crisis and Children: Effects and policy options in West and Central Africa