By J Nastranis
A new report released after the adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is quite upbeat about Africa’s development prospects, but expresses serious reservations on several counts. “Having made encouraging progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), African countries have the opportunity” to use the SDGs “to tackle remaining challenges and achieve a development breakthrough,” says the report.
“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 the report titled ‘Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals – Analysis of the Common African Position on the post-2015 Development Agenda’.
The report praises Africa for having achieved 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.
While admitting that poverty rates are still hovering around 48 percent, according to the most recent estimates, the study adds that 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.
The report goes a step further and says that some policies and initiatives have been groundbreaking. For example, Niger’s School for Husbands, which it says has been successful in transforming men into allies in promoting women’s reproductive health, family planning and behavioural change towards gender equality. Cape Verde is reported to have increased its forest cover by more than 6 percentage points, with millions of trees planted in recent years.
But there is the seamy side of the story, says the report adding that 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 report calls for addressing inequality in all its dimensions:
- Rural development programmes should be integrated, creating growth poles or clusters in rural communities.
- Agricultural productivity should be improved to enhance employment opportunities and rural livelihoods while ensuring a predictable supply of raw materials for the manufacturing sector.
- Social protection programmes should be implemented in order to address the needs of the vulnerable and improve the productive capacities of the labour force.
- The gender gap in inequality should be closed by instituting: conditional cash transfers that prioritize females; curricula reforms and gender-sensitive teaching methods; measures against gender-based violence in schools; and affirmative action programmes that facilitate the full participation of girls in school and the labour market.
Calling for improving productivity and human capital, it says:
- Teachers’ professional development should be improved.
- The educational curricula should be upgraded with a strong component on in-school assess-ment and systematic evaluation of learning achievements.
- The provision of adequate text books and other ICT-based pedagogic materials should be ensured.
- Access to quality early childhood care and development should be enhanced.
- Educational management and planning capacities should be upgraded.
The joint report adds: 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. But it warns that their implementation will entail mobilizing additional resources and partners, and putting in place more robust monitoring systems.
According to the Agenda 2063 website, it is both a Vision and an Action Plan. It is a call for action to all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny.
The background to the agenda is that in their 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), while acknowledging past successes and challenges, rededicated themselves to the continent’s accelerated development and technological progress.
They laid down vision and eight ideals to serve as pillars for the continent in the foreseeable future, which Agenda 2063 will translate into concrete objectives, milestones, goals, targets and actions/measures. Agenda 2063 strives to enable Africa remain focused and committed to the ideals envisaged in the context of a rapidly changing world-
In yet another important part, the report, its authors say: “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.”
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 47 billion dollars 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, the report’s authors advise.
They add: 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.