Africa in the news: Nigeria starts CCT program, DRC deal reached, and South Africa’s education numbers improve

Nigeria begins conditional cash transfer program

As the Nigerian economy continues to struggle with a recession, the government began payments to one million of Nigeria’s poorest citizens through a new conditional cash transfer (CCT) program last week—amid some critiques of its motive and sustainability. The program is one component of a 2015 campaign promise that President Muhammadu Buhari and the governing All Progressives Congress party made to expand safety nets for vulnerable populations. It is being piloted in nine of 36 Nigerian states: Borno, Kwara, Bauchi, Cross Rivers, Niger, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun, and Ekiti. Beneficiaries, who are picked from the social register developed by eight states and the World Bank, will receive monthly stipends of $16.40 (5,000 naira). The scheme will also provide monthly stipends of $98.40 (30,000) for recent graduates working for the N-Power Volunteer Corps and loans of approximately $30 to $300 (N10,000 to N100,000) to entrepreneurs. According to a statement from the office of the vice president, as more states develop their social registers and target their most vulnerable citizens to benefit from the program, they will be included in subsequent phases of the conditional cash transfer implementation.

Mediators announce deal over the political transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Last Friday, Marcel Utembi, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo, announced that a deal had been struck between President Joseph Kabila’s administration and the opposition over the election delay. Kabila, who due to claims of an inability to run a thorough election by the electoral commission and a controversial supreme court decision allowing the delay, was posed to remain in power until early 2018, long after his expired term of December 19, 2016. Many fear that this move is the precursor to a plan to remain in power indefinitely. Protests, arrests, and violence have followed both the decision and the deadline.

The new deal allows Kabila to stay in power until the end of 2017, during which time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi and a yet-to-be-named opposition prime minister will lead a National Transition Council. As of January 6, leaders have yet to sign the deal, but the mediators remain optimistic that it will be accepted by all stakeholders.

South Africa’s national school pass rate rises, but still faces major obstacles

Earlier this week, South Africa’s education ministry announced that its national pass rate of its matric exam rose for the first time in three years—from 70.7 percent in 2015 to 72.5 percent. The government attributes much of this rise to an updated curriculum and increased spending. Last year the country spent 15 percent of its total budget ($15.7 billion) on education, and its treasury projects spending will rise 7.4 percent each year for the next three years. Not all is rosy, though: Education activist group estimates that 40 percent of students drop out before even taking the exam. Inequality in scores—black students continue underperform white students—highlight the legacy of apartheid and ongoing social inequalities.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 shows that South Africa’s education system is struggling, ranking the country’s primary education 126 out of 138 countries. This low performance reverberates through the economy: High unemployment rates, especially among the youth, are largely attributed to low-skilled workers. Earlier this week, The Economist released an article examining the deficiencies in the South African School system, including the fact that just 27 percent of students in school for six years cannot read, and the country has one of the highest test score gaps in the world.