A re­view of the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals

Africa Renewal - - Contents - BY FRANCK KUWONU

Burk­ina Faso, a land­locked West African coun­try south of the Sa­hara Desert, has been in the news since po­lit­i­cal un­rest erupted there in 2014. Had peace pre­vailed, the coun­try would have had a mo­ment to savour the find­ing that they were among the few African coun­tries that re­duced poverty over the last 15 years.

The Gam­bia, a nar­row strip of land tucked in­side Sene­gal, topped the list of coun­tries show­ing a sin­gle digit re­duc­tion. Over­all, Gam­bia re­ported a 32% poverty re­duc­tion. Other coun­tries far­ing rel­a­tively well were Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Swazi­land and Uganda, ac­cord­ing to the Africa Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Gap Re­port 2015.

Launched in late Septem­ber in New York, the re­port as­sessed Africa’s progress to­wards achiev­ing the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs). It high­lighted good prac­tices and poli­cies to sup­port the new Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) over the next 15 years.

For all this progress, how­ever, sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa fell far short of halv­ing the pro­por­tion of peo­ple liv­ing in poverty and the pro­por­tion of those suf­fer­ing from hunger — the two tar­gets that would have in­di­cated that ex­treme hunger and poverty were be­ing erad­i­cated.

In 1990 just over five out of ev­ery ten peo­ple (56.5%) in the con­ti­nent were liv­ing in poverty. Twenty years later that pro­por­tion was es­ti­mated at about 48.4%. This trans­lates to a 14% re­duc­tion, but to achieve the tar­get the re­duc­tion should have been at least 28.3% — half the 1990 lev­els. More­over, poverty lev­els in­creased in five of the 30 African coun­tries as­sessed.

Growth not strong enough

Steady eco­nomic growth in the re­gion and spe­cific poverty re­duc­tion strate­gies are cred­ited for most of the progress across the con­ti­nent. Ethiopia ap­pears to be a good ex­am­ple of when con­certed and de­lib­er­ate poli­cies sup­ported by eco­nomic growth can have an im­pact on poverty lev­els.

By 2011, poverty lev­els in Ethiopia had fallen from 44% to 30% in just over a decade, with the main driver of poverty re­duc­tion be­ing sus­tained agri­cul­tural growth. Au­thor­i­ties cre­ated the Agri­cul­ture Trans­for­ma­tion Agency and staffed it with highly trained peo­ple who act as prob­lem solvers in trans­form­ing the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, Had­dis Tad­desse, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Ethiopia, told Africa Re­newal. The coun­try “has con­sis­tently al­lo­cated 10-17 % of its bud­get to agri­cul­ture.”

While sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa’s eco­nomic ex­pan­sion has been re­mark­able over the last two decades and has con­trib­uted to al­le­vi­at­ing poverty, growth lev­els were not enough to en­gi­neer struc­tural eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, as pe­ri­odic as­sess­ment re­ports on MDGs progress have con­sis­tently pointed out. Al­though un­em­ploy­ment re­mained stable at around 7.5% in 2012, this num­ber, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion, gave no in­di­ca­tion of the great pro­por­tion of work­ers (77%) in vul­ner­a­ble em­ploy­ment, or the large share of those in­volved in sub­sis­tence agri­cul­ture.

While progress was mod­est in a ma­jor­ity of coun­tries, Kenya and Nige­ria ex­pe­ri­enced a rise in poverty lev­els, as did the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Mau­ri­ta­nia, and Zam­bia.

Hav­ing Nige­ria and Kenya, with their over­all rel­a­tively well-per­form­ing economies, at the bot­tom of the list for poverty re­duc­tion il­lus­trates the chal­lenges faced by many African coun­tries. Pop­u­la­tion growth, un­sta­ble com­mod­ity prices, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, in­clud­ing droughts lead­ing to failed crops and per­sis­tent con­flicts caus­ing mas­sive dis­place­ment are some of the main causes of the un­der­per­for­mance in Africa, the re­port said.

AMO/Colin Walker

A slum in Kib­era, Kenya. Poverty re­mains a chal­lenge in Africa.

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