According to a new World Bank report, more than a third of girls in sub-Saharan Africa get married before their 18th birthday, which costs countries billions of dollars in lost earnings.
Estimates for 12 countries suggest, some 63 billion dollars is lost, because child brides complete fewer years of formal education than their peers who marry later.
In the report titled: ‘Educating Girls and Ending Child Marriage’, the World Bank states, West Africa in particular has the highest prevalence of marriage before age 15.
The causes of child marriage are complex, and include traditional beliefs and conflicts, but poverty is an underlying factor. Twenty-four countries have launched national strategies to end the practice, since the African Union began a campaign to stop child marriage by 2023.
However it is noted, more needs to be done, particularly to keep girls in school, by providing free meals, sanitary items and transport; then the families feel they can send the girls to school, where they have support and incentives, rather than if they were at home.