As many countries tighten their procedures for cross-border adoptions, international adoption rates have been falling. However, adoptions from the continent of Africa are proving the exception; between 2003–2010, international adoptions from Africa rose more than 20%. In its latest report, the ‘2013 African report on child wellbeing’, the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) highlights the problem of “loopholes in the laws and guidelines” which allow adoptions to take place without the proper process. The ACPF is calling on more countries in Africa to introduce “strict procedures to protect the interests of the child”.
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child stipulates that inter-country adoption should only take place where “an alternative family environment cannot be found in the home country”. With tighter regulations, the ACPF believes domestic adoptions, foster care and other national alternatives would be fully explored before any international placements are considered. Speaking to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the ACPF said that the rising number of international adoptions exposed the fact that many African countries either lacked adequate adoption systems or had “cracks in these systems”. High-profile cases where celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie have adopted African children have also helped to raise the issue as a matter of wider public debate.
Political commitment to children
The report looks at governments’ commitments to child protection and assesses a range of indicators to measure how ‘child friendly’ nations are. In its 2013 child-friendliness rankings, the ten best-scoring countries were Mauritius, South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Lesotho, Algeria, Swaziland and Morocco. These countries performed well mainly due to having national laws and policies in place to protect children from violence and maltreatment. They had also allocated adequate budgets for sectors dealing with children to achieve positive outcomes in child well-being. Countries considered to have failed in these regards were Chad, Eritrea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Zimbabwe, Comoros, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Côte d’Ivoire and Mauritania.
The report concludes that ‘child friendliness’ is a matter of political commitment and is not related to wealth or level of development, since countries with a low gross domestic product such as Rwanda and Lesotho rank highly. While the authors acknowledge that generally nations’ efforts to reduce child mortality and increase access to primary education are ‘commendable’, they conclude that there are still challenges ahead for many countries to ensure Africa is a “continent fit for children”.