Having made encouraging progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), African countries have the opportunity to use the newly launched Sustainable Development Goals to tackle remaining challenges and achieve a development breakthrough, according to a report released here today.
Leadership, innovation and targeted investments in a number of social sectors have led to transformative interventions and in many cases revolutionized people’s lives, says an annual report produced jointly by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union (AU), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), called “Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals”.
Africa has seen an acceleration in economic growth, established ambitious social safety nets and designed policies for boosting education and tackling HIV and other diseases. It has also introduced women’s quotas in parliament, leading the way internationally on gender equality, and increased gender parity in primary schools.
Although overall poverty rates are still hovering around 48 percent, according to the most recent estimates, most countries have made progress on at least one goal. For instance, The Gambia reduced poverty by 32 percent between 1990 and 2010, while Ethiopia decreased its poverty rate by one third, focusing on agriculture and rural livelihoods.
Some policies and initiatives have been groundbreaking. For example, Niger’s School for Husbands has been successful in transforming men into allies in promoting women’s reproductive health, family planning and behavioral change towards gender equality. Cabo Verde increased its forest cover by more than 6 percentage points, with millions of trees planted in recent years.
Much more work lies ahead to ensure living standards improve for all African women and men. While economic growth has been relatively strong, it has not been rapid or inclusive enough to create jobs. Similarly, many countries have managed to achieve access to primary schooling however considerable issues of quality and equity need to be addressed.
The continent’s new development priorities, as embodied in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, are both comprehensive and universal, while their implementation will entail mobilizing additional resources and partners, and putting in place more robust monitoring systems.
The Sustainable Development Goals replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000 rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.
“Africa’s regional strategy for sustained and inclusive development complemented by the global post 2015 development agenda provide an appropriate framework for sustainable development. Nevertheless, an important lesson of the MDGs is that success will hinge on a credible means of implementation,” say the authors of the report.
Poor implementation mechanisms and excessive reliance on development aid undermined the economic sustainability of several MDG interventions, the report adds. With official development assistance to Africa projected to remain low over the period 2015-2018, at an average of around US$47 billion annually, the focus should be on boosting and diversifying economies, mobilizing domestic resources and new partners, unleashing the economic potential of women and fighting illicit financial flows.
Achieving sustainable development will also be impossible unless African nations and communities are resilient, able to anticipate, shape and adapt to the many shocks and challenges they face, including climate-related disasters, health crises such as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and conflict and instability. Investments now in prevention and preparedness will minimize risk and future costs.