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Investment in Early Childhood Development makes good business sense

Thursday, 30 June 2016 18:21 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Investment in Early Childhood Development makes good business sense, says Global Business Coalition for Education 

A new report published today by the Global Business Coalition for Education reveals that investment in early childhood programmes offer the highest returns on investments and are more successful and cost-effective than later interventions.

Currently early childhood development (ECD) programs in the poorest countries around the world are seriously underfunded and under-prioritized by international donors, country governments, and private philanthropy. Investing in early years is an opportunity for businesses to fill that funding gap and multiply the positive outcomes of their investments in health and education, whilst boosting economic growth.

80% of brain development is completed by age 3, so the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children shows up as early as nine months old. Quality ECD interventions give all children the chance to grow strong bodies and brains, leading to better school readiness and academic achievement.

Not investing early can have long-term negative effects on a child’s educational achievement, health, mental and emotional well-being, and behavior, with consequences for the development of a productive and skilled workforce.

World leaders have agreed a set of Sustainable Development Goals including the provision of early childhood development for all children by 2030, but this goal will not be reached without major investment.  200 million children under five are currently prevented from reaching their full developmental potential due to poverty, insufficient nutrition and health services, and inadequate cognitive stimulation.

Bob Collymore, Safaricom CEO said, “The business community must recognize its interdependency with the society. Business cannot prosper in a society affected by poverty and inequalities, where the potential and talents of the future generation are denied at birth. This is why the Sustainable Development Goals appeal to businesses to play their part through a clear and compelling call to action. Public-Private Partnerships provide a unique opportunity to harness skills and resources to provide a holistic approach to ECD”.

“As many other business leaders will acknowledge, the success of any business or institution relies on the quality of its workforce. Today’s world requires high levels of non-cognitive skills like the ability to adapt, solve problems, think critically, innovate and work in teams. These skills are in high demand, and businesses are constantly competing for talent. Investments in ECD will do much more than bridge the skills gap: they will unlock the untapped potential of generations” added Mr Collymore.

Sarah Brown, Executive Chair, Global Business Coalition for Education said, “The benefits of early childhood development are greatest for the poorest and most marginalised children, who fall behind before they even begin primary school. If we are serious about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and giving every child the best start in life, we must do more to make sure that every child — no matter who they are or where they were born — receives these critical interventions in the early years.”

Sabrina Premji, Co-founder and Chief Exploration Officer, Kidogo, said: “We invest in the early years because it makes sense. If we want our economies and industries to thrive, we need a pipeline of human capital that can think critically and problem-solve. The foundations of these abilities are built in early childhood. But we don’t have to wait decades to see our return on investment: quality childcare improves productivity and reduces absenteeism for working mothers while preparing young children for school and for life.”

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Board Chair, GAVI said, “Ensuring every child’s well being today is the best way of securing robust economies tomorrow. Currently, Africa and Asia lose 11% of their GDP every year because of malnutrition, a preventable condition. We know that investing in early years interventions across health, wellbeing and learning will allow our children to grow, learn, and earn to their full potential. Our economies depend on our children and we must not ignore the importance of giving them a healthy and equitable start in life.”