Despite widespread pessimism, some African countries are on course to meet key internationally-set development goals and many more could meet the targets if they adopt the right policies now, says a new report from the United Nations regional commission for the continent.
The report, entitled “The Millennium Development Goals in Africa – Progress and Challenges,” published by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), has been issued to coincide with the World Summit at UN headquarters in New York from 14-16 September, at which achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs – the ambitious set of targets for reducing world poverty and other ills by 2015 – will be a major topic of discussion.
The report says countries such as Ghana, Botswana, Uganda and Burkina Faso are likely to achieve the first goal of halving poverty by the deadline. Many more countries remain far behind, but the report argues that their governments can be successful at reducing extreme poverty if they use the MDGs as a tool in shaping their development policies.
“What this report shows is that it's important to look closely at what's happening in each country,” says K.Y. Amoako, ECA's Executive Secretary. “Africa does need to make much faster progress and we're showing a way forward; but the impression is sometimes given that there is no progress to report. That is wrong.”
Africa’s slow pace of development has been well-documented. While other regions, particularly Asia, have registered significant progress, some African countries have even suffered reverses in crucial areas. Adult life expectancy, for example, has declined from 50 to 46 years. It is clear that sub-Saharan Africa as a whole will not achieve most of the MDGs by the target date of 2015.
Yet, the report shows, MDGs have served as a catalyst to spur sluggish programmes that can bring the continent closer to its development aims. And where the right policies are not in place, the Goals can provide new impetus to reverse the deterioration in human development.
For example, the MDGs are incorporated into the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), the blueprint endorsed by the African Union for economic progress on the continent.
As a result, successes have been achieved on the ground, the report says. Egypt and Gambia have sharply reduced maternal mortality (Goal 5) by investing in the training of birth attendants and midwives, while Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Gabon are likely to meet Goal 2 in achieving universal primary education.