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Review of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in Africa

Department of Social Affairs, African Union Commission

May 2005

SARPN acknowledges the UNFPA as the source of this document.
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Executive Summary

  1. During the last decade, commendable progress has been made in the African region. This includes putting in place institutional mechanisms, policies, and strategies such as poverty reduction strategies and programmes aimed at improving the quality of life of the African population. However, owing to the interplay of various factors, post-independence gains, particularly in the social sector, were reversed in many countries and Africa continues to face development crises expressed in terms of deepening poverty, the persistence of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the burden of diseases, the demographic trap, gender inequality in all walks of life, economic stagnation in many African countries and in some cases regression and recurring conflicts. Moreover, external factors such as declining Overseas development Assistance (ODA), increasing debt servicing, limited inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) and issues related to conditionality have compounded Africa's development crisis. The development crisis is partly a result of the inadequate implementation of a wide array regional and international instruments in which promises made were not at par with promises kept.

  2. Cognizant of the escalating development crisis, in the year 2000 the largest ever gathering at the United Nations adopted the Millennium Declaration. The Declaration's eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) intended to bring together developing and developed countries in partnership to reduce poverty, ensure gender equality, combat environmental degradation, improve access to social services, especially education, maternal health care, safe drinking water and improved sanitation, and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa is of paramount importance if the African Union's vision and mission for the continent are to be realized, and the objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) achieved.

  3. On close examination, it is evident that all the MDGs are interrelated and one cannot be achieved in isolation from the others. For example, as much as poverty has an impact on education, health, population dynamics and the environment, inversely, these factors also affect poverty. Similarly, global partnership affects all the goals because of its significance for peace, economic development and exchange of technology. And since these goals are about people, each of them addresses different but related aspects of the needs of the population.

  4. There is continuing evidence that Africa's economic performance is improving. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, in 2003 Africa was the second fastest growing region in the developing world after Eastern and Southern Asia. Real GDP grew by 3.8% in 2003 compared with 3.2% in 2002. North Africa with 4.8% growth was the fastest growing sub region in the continent. Nevertheless, while there is optimism that the continent's growth in 2004 would reach 4.4% overall, the effects of growth have so far not had much impact on poverty reduction.

  5. Even so, many African countries are also optimistic about meeting the MDGs by 2015, given a right mix of policies, increasing investment in social sectors, effective implementation of regional and international instruments, peace and security, gender equality, and youth development. They take hope in the democratic evolution in some countries, the attempt to step up good governance, the determination of African leadership as expressed in the AU mission and vision and the NEPAD programme. Optimism about meeting the MDGs by 2015 also assumes debt relief, a culture of good governance and favourable terms of trade.

  6. Socio-economic indicators including life expectancy, educational achievement and access to essential social services, along with national reports and evidence from related sources, indicate that Algeria, Cape Verde, Libya, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tunisia are "most likely" to achieve all the MDGs by 2015 and are clearly ahead of other African countries on most MDG indicators. Not coincidentally, these countries also rank "High" on the UNDP Human Development Index. In addition, they enjoy relative peace and political stability, good governance, and fruitful international partnerships.

  7. Countries that are "likely" to achieve all the MDGs share to some extent the development traits of the countries in the "most likely" category. These countries include Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, Egypt, Morocco, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Perhaps the major constraint to the achievement of all the MDGs is the spread of HIV/AIDS, which is most severe in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

  8. The rest of the countries in the continent face considerable difficulties in their efforts to achieve all the MDGs by 2015, although they may accomplish some targets for some of the goals. These countries have shown limited economic growth potential and all are in preliminary stages of demographic transition. In addition, some have experienced prolonged civil conflict in recent years. Again not coincidentally, these are also countries in the "Low" category of the UNDP Human Development Index.

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