Presidents Corner

October 13, 2010

Africa and the Millennium Development Goals


There was much to celebrate, including for Africa, at the last month’s United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015 When the goals were formulated ten years ago, many skeptics believedthe targets set Africa up to fail. But the good news is that a number of African countries have made remarkable progress toward them.  Senegal and Kenya have already achieved the poverty goal, and Ethiopia and Ghana appear to be on track to meet it. Ten African countries have already achieved gender parity in primary education and another nine seem to be on track to meet the goal.


But there still is a very, very steep mountain to climb.  Africa is way off track on some of the goals. No African country looks likely to meet the goals for improved sanitation facilities, the subject of last month’s President’s Corner.  Only Malawi and Eritrea seem to have a real shot at meeting the goal for reducing the mortality rate of children under age 5.  Progress on women’s empowerment remains illusive even though it is absolutely central to progress on all the other MDGs. Moreover, the number of people in Africa living in poverty looks very likely to increase  by 2015 because Africa’s poverty rate simply is not declining fast enough to offset its high population growth rate.


The good news is that we are seeing many countries in Africa stepping up and raising their game. Unlike in previous global downturns, many African countries have proven to be more resilient this time and are getting back on track to levels of sustained poverty-reducing growth. As we saw last week at the Global Fund replenishment, many African leaders--in the private sector as well as in the private sector--have stepped up to prioritize health spending. Also, ten countries in Africa are putting ten percent or more of their budgets into improving their food security.


We all remember too well Africa’s absolutely dismal growth performance during much of the last quarter of the 20th century, a period marked by despair and conflict in too many parts of the continent. Fortunately since then a sea change has been quietly taking place in Africa. We have seen a significant reduction in conflict and the march of democracy across the continent accompanied by great progress on economic stability and growth, poverty reduction.  Despite the recent Great Recession that gripped the West a number of African countries have proven to be resilient, returning to positive growth and economic stability.


But Africa cannot do it alone.  Its efforts need to be supported by the international community because a prosperous and secure Africa is in everybody’s interest.


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