It is estimated by UNICEF that in 2017 42% of children, mostly girls, in Malawi are married by the time they are 18, and up to 9% by the time they 15 years old. Child marriage is costing African countries tens of billions of dollars in lost earnings and human capital, says a new World Bank report launched ahead of the African Union Commission’s second African Girls Summit on Ending Child Marriage taking place in Ghana this week.
According to Educating Girls and Ending Child Marriage: A Priority for Africa report, more than three million girls in Sub-Saharan Africa marry before their 18th birthday each year, the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world.
Estimates for 12 countries-which account for half of the African continent’s population suggest that through its impact on girls’ education, child marriage is costing these countries US$63 billion in lost earnings and human capital wealth.
“Primary education for girls is simply not sufficient. Girls reap the biggest benefits of education when they are able to complete secondary school, but we know that girls very often don’t stay in school if they marry early,” said Quentin Wodon, Lead Economist at the World Bank and principal author of the report.
The report confirms that keeping girls in school is one of the best ways to avoid child marriage. The report also documents the impact of child marriage and girls’ education on more than three dozen other development outcomes.