2 July 2012
This is the conclusion of a new report to be released on 15 July, 2012, by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union, African Development Bank and the UNDP.
According to the African Press Organization (APO), the report, ‘Assessing Progress in Africa Towards the Millennium Development Goals 2012’, states that; Africa has made major strides in primary school enrolment, gender parity in primary education, the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments and a marked decline in HIV/AIDS new infection rates.
The report is the 8th in a series initiated in 2005 by ECA, in collaboration with the African Union Commission and other development partners.
It reveals that for the first time since record keeping on poverty began, the number of Africans living under $1.25 per day has declined.
Scheduled for launching during the next session of the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next week, it gauges Africa’s performance against targets agreed by 189 world leaders at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit to “free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected.”
“The poverty rate and the number of poor declined for the first time in Africa. Excluding North Africa, the percentage of Africa’s population living below the poverty line ($1.25 per day) declined from 56.5 to 47.5 percent between 1990 and 2008”, the report states.
In concrete terms, the number of people considered poor fell from 394.9 million to 386.0 million over the same period, according to the report.
It says that the positive performance was driven in part by strong economic growth over the past decade, although many African countries still have serious challenges to halve poverty or sufficiently address the challenges of job creation, school drop-out rates, and high child and maternal mortality rates by the 2015 target date.
Despite the progress, the report warns that Africa needs to do more to meet all the targets agreed in the MDGs document. For example, it states that “poverty is on a slow decline in Africa” and that “poverty in Africa is concentrated in rural areas and affects men and women differently.”
It praises efforts deployed in the area of primary education, as “many African countries are on track to achieve this goal”, but stresses the need for improving the quality of primary education, increasing completion rates and making similar progress at the secondary and tertiary levels of education..
It observes encouraging progress on the goal on gender equality, especially in primary education and the increasing number of parliamentary seats held by women in many countries.
Rwanda, for example, leads the world in the attainment of gender parity in parliament, although promoting women in paid employment outside agriculture remains a challenge in most countries, according to the report’s findings.
It calls for the strengthening of these achievements through conscientious efforts to discard cultural practices, such as inequitable inheritance practices, early marriage and household power dynamics, which undermine women’s contribution to national development.
“Africa’s progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria is being sustained – even stepped up. The number of people in Africa living with HIV has increased owing to improved coverage of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Infections too have fallen: the decrease in young women’s prevalence (15–24 years) is particularly encouraging”, according to the report.
The report points to other challenges in income inequality, limited access to and poor quality of service delivery, high population growth, feminization of poverty, vulnerable employment and exposure to economic and climate-related shocks that continue to undermine efforts to reduce poverty.
It comes three years to the 2015 target date by which governments and partners committed to have achieved significant advances in eight areas that are considered essential for the economic and social welfare of the people of Africa.
Generally referred to as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), these targets include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; achievement of universal primary education; promotion of gender equality and empower women; reduction of child mortality; improvement in maternal health; the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; promotion of environmental sustainability; and the development of a global partnership for development.
Although regional performance on the MDGs might not tell the full story on the wide variations in performance across sub-regional, national and sub-national jurisdictions, the tendency at all levels is for full commitment to accelerate progress towards the targets.
Africa seems to have clearly understood that they need to pay more attention to domestic resource mobilization in order to minimize the volatility of development finance, owing to the financial crisis and economic downturn.
The report also cautions African countries on the need to adopt an integrated approach, that takes into account the inter-linkages among goals and indicators of the MDGs, as the countries engage in the process of defining the contours of the post-2015 agenda.