Tackling vulnerabilities should be at the center of continent’s development efforts
Addis Ababa, 1 November – While an increasing number of Africans are enjoying higher living standards, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa should redouble efforts to ensure crises such as the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa do not reverse development achievements, according to a report released here today during the African Economic Conference.
Africa’s poverty rates have continued to decline, despite the adverse effects of the recent food, fuel, and global economic crisis, says “Assessing Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa”, produced annually by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
However, conflict, political instability and natural or man-made disasters threaten to unravel the progress made on the MDGs, the eight internationally-agreed targets to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, gender inequality and environmental degradation by 2015.
“Even after societies recuperate, the potential for development remains impaired long after the crises are over, as human capital is depleted and institutions are weakened,” say the authors of the report. The current Ebola crisis in West Africa, a region that was experiencing significant growth and development progress, is threatening to set back affected and surrounding countries by several years.
“Our sisters and brothers in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are facing grave challenges, as they fight and battle the Ebola Virus Disease, which over the last few months so abruptly halted their path towards development and reconstruction,” said African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
The challenge for the region, says the report, is to ensure continued good governance and accountability, and a sustained focus on social protection for all, including the most vulnerable. The latter are often the hardest hit by crises and shocks.
About 37 countries were implementing cash transfers, public works programmes or insurance schemes in 2013, up from 21 three years earlier and many are in the process of bolstering their health systems and these have had considerable positive consequences.
Stronger partnerships and domestic financing, with strong support from the private sector, are key to furthering improvements in living standards.
“The private sector has a huge role to play in finishing the business of the MDGs and sustaining progress beyond 2015. In fact, part of the work will consist in making sure future investments are safeguarded in the face of crises like the one we are seeing in West Africa,” said Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Over the 1995–2012 period, Africa has made considerable improvements on health-related MDGs. HIV and AIDS prevalence fell from 5.8 to 4.7 percent, owing to strong political will, focused interventions and increased access to antiretroviral therapy. Incidence of malaria and death rates related to the disease fell by an average of 31 percent and 49 percent respectively in Southern, East, Central and West Africa as a whole.
Maternal and child mortality have declined by 47 and 44 percent respectively. That progress is considerable, argues the report, but it falls short of the objective and reflects dire initial conditions, plus limited access to contraceptives and lack of skilled birth attendants and antenatal care.
“The challenge is to make sure Africa, supported by international partners, continues to invest in the sectors that make a difference in people’s daily lives”, said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP’s Director for Africa. “A healthy and educated population, stronger communities, inclusive decision-making, better local service delivery, vibrant economies and businesses: these are all needed for Africa to continue to forge ahead.”
The continent is currently on track to meet the primary school enrolment and gender parity targets, with 25 countries achieving net enrolment ratios of 80 percent or above. Gender equality is also on the increase in national parliaments, with the continent ranking third in the world behind Latin America and developed regions.
Further, the report recognizes the importance of the Common African Position on the post-2015 development agenda that outlines Africa’s key priorities, concerns and strategies to be reflected in the post-2015 negotiation process.
“Making sure African economies can transform, diversify and become an engine for job creation and empowerment of communities is key to achieving long-term social progress,” says Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of ECA.
Technology, transfer of skills for young women and men, research and development and public-private partnerships have an important role to play in creating dynamic economies and societies, and ensuring countries in Africa can continue to advance.