MDG 2014 Report: Assessing progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals Analysis of the Common African Position on the post-2015 Development Agenda

Accelerated progress in Africa towards the Millennium Development Goals despite daunting initial conditions Performance on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has varied by country and region; some regions are closer to meeting the targets, while others such as Africa are not as close. But Africa has accelerated progress on the MDGs despite unfavourable initial conditions, being the region with the lowest starting point. Thirty-four out of 54 countries that are classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are in the African region, representing a disproportionate share of low-income countries (LICs). It is therefore inappropriate to assess the continent’s performance on the same basis as the more advanced regions; when assessments take into account the initial conditions of the continent, it emerges that the pace of progress on the MDGs in Africa has accelerated since 2003. Indeed, an assessment of performance based on effort reveals that eight of the top ten best performers (i.e. those experiencing the most rapid acceleration) are in Southern, East, Central and West Africa. Burkina Faso ranked the highest in MDG acceleration. Furthermore, progress was more rapid in LDCs than in non-LDCs. Poverty rates declining at an accelerated rate Africa’s poverty rates have continued to decline, despite the adverse effects of the recent food, fuel, financial and Eurozone crises. The proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 a day, in Southern, East, Central and West Africa as a group decreased from 56.5 percent in 1990 to 48.5 percent in 2010. However, this figure is approximately 20.25 percentage points off the 2015 target compared to 4.1 for South Asia. On annual average, there has been an acceleration in the rate of poverty reduction; poverty declined faster over the 2005-08 period than over 1990-2005. The positive trend in poverty reduction is attributable to rapid growth rates in the last decade, an improved governance environment and the implementation of social protection programmes in some countries. The impact of growth on poverty in Africa is likely to improve if the continent pursues a policy of adding value to its agricultural commodities and natural resources, thereby creating a value chain of livelihoods and decent employment opportunities for the majority of its citizens. Job creation: not growing fast enough to absorb youth In spite of resounding progress on employment generation, the unemployment rate still remains high in Africa. It is markedly high in North Africa, especially among youth. Approximately 27.2 percent of young people in the labour force were without work in 2013 compared to 26.6 percent in 2012. Working poverty: declining but vulnerable employment remains very high The proportion of workers earning less than $1.25 a day declined in Africa, with the greatest gains occurring in North Africa. In Southern, East, Central and West Africa, the working poor as a proportion of total workers declined from 55.8 to 39.2 percent during the 2000-2013 period. Working poverty declined from 6.9 to around 3.0 percent in North Africa during the same period. Subregional disparities reflect the high level of informality and vulnerable jobs in Southern, East, Central and West Africa compared to North Africa. Indeed, the proportion of workers in vulnerable employment in North Africa was 35 percent in 2013 compared to 77.6 percent for Southern, East, Central and West Africa as a group. Women are more likely to be engaged in vulnerable jobs. In 2013, around 85 percent of women versus 70.5 percent of men were employed in vulnerable jobs in Southern, East, Central and West Africa as a group. growing at a declining rate Labour productivity growth declined in Africa, mirroring a global trend; between 2012 and 2013, it fell from 1.9 to 1.6 percent in Southern, East, Central and West Africa as a group, and from 3.3 to 0.28 percent in North Africa. Income inequality declining in Africa, but the level remains high The level of income inequality in Africa is second only to Latin America. However, in the former, the inequality landscape is changing rapidly. Between the periods of 1990-1999 and 2000-2009, Africa experienced the highest decline in income inequality (4.3 percent) followed by Asia (3.1 percent). In contrast, inequality worsened in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe. The high level of inequality in Africa, however, masks subregional variations. Southern Africa (Gini index, 48.5) and Central Africa (Gini index, 45.0) are the most unequal, and North Africa (Gini index, 37.4) and East Africa (Gini index, 41.0) remain the least unequal. Inequality constitutes an impediment to the continent’s efforts to reduce poverty. Addressing this challenge is therefore critical to achieving MDG 1. Droughts and unfavourable climate hampering efforts to fight hunger in Africa Climate change (manifested by drought, especially in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and erosion in Swaziland) and conflicts (e.g. in the Central African Republic and Côte d’Ivoire) have undermined efforts to reduce hunger in Africa. Progress is mixed among African countries, with some countries making remarkable improvements; however, overall, the continent is off-track with respect to the hunger target. Malnourishment remains a recurring challenge Progress in halving the proportion of undernourished people has been slow in all developing regions with an average reduction of 36.5 percent for all developing regions and 22.3 percent for Africa between 1990 and 2013. Contributing to this trend are social inequality and the low nutritional, educational and social status of women. Furthermore, in recent years, recurrent crises in the Sahel, arising from a combination of sporadic rainfall, locust infestation, crop shortages, and high and volatile food prices are constraints to food and nutrition security. Halving prevalence of underweight children under five years of age is still a challenge Africa still lags behind most other developing regions in achieving the target on underweight children. Africa excluding North Africa managed to reduce the prevalence of underweight children under five years of age by only 14.3 percent between 1990 and 2012. Performance at the country level shows wide disparities with some countries having achieved the target, while many others made only marginal progress. Wide disparities also exist among children from rich and poor households, as well as between those from rural and urban areas. Most countries on track to meet the primary enrolment target: low completion and low quality of education remain a challenge The continent is on track to meet the primary school enrolment target. Twenty-five countries have achieved net enrolment ratios of 80 percent or above, and only 11 have enrolment rates below 75 percent. These achievements have been made possible through measures that strengthen educational infrastructure, increase participation and improve retention (e.g. school feeding programmes, cash transfers). These efforts have translated into a rapid increase in primary enrolment in recent years in a number of countries. For instance, primary enrolment increased by about 40 percentage points (from 25.3 to 64.5 percent) in Burkina Faso and in Niger (from 24.3 to 65.7 percent) during the 1991-2012 period. Notwithstanding progress on enrolment, completions rates are relatively low: 28 percent of countries for which data are available have a completion rate below 60 percent. Almost 22 percent of the region’s primary age children are out of school, and a third of primary students drop out without acquiring the minimum basic competencies in reading and mathematics. The quality and the skills content of the educational system also calls for urgent attention. Strong gender parity in primary education and women’s representation in parliament increasing The ratio of girls to boys enrolled in primary school continues to improve in many African countries. Of the 49 African countries with data, 18 have achieved gender parity at the primary level of education. Parity figures, however, deteriorate at the secondary and tertiary levels. Thus, the transition of girls and boys between different levels of education requires urgent attention. Over the 1990-2011 period, women’s share of non-agricultural employment rose modestly from 35.3 to 39.6 percent. This performance, however, lags behind other developing regions. For instance, it is around 20.0 percentage points below East Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Africa is making more rapid progress in increasing the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament than are other regions. In 2012, only Latin America and developed regions surpassed its achievement. Between 2005 and 2012, Southern Asia and Africa (excluding North Africa) made the fastest progress. Limited economic opportunities for women and barriers to political participation continue to impede progress in meeting this target. Good progress in reducing child mortality, but more effort needed on immunization coverage Notwithstanding steep declines in child mortality, Africa is off-track on this target, which reflects the dire initial health conditions on the continent. Continent-wide, the under-five mortality rate (U5MR) reduced from 177 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 98 deaths in 2012. This translates to 45 percent reduction against the target of the two-thirds reduction. The annual rate of progress has improved substantially since 2000: it rose from 1.4 percent (1990-2000) to 3.8 percent (2000- 2012). There has also been progress in reducing infant mortality rates (IMRs) in Africa; it fell from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 54 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014, a 39 percent decline on average for the continent as a whole (UNICEF, 2013). Globally, progress on reducing neonatal deaths (i.e. children who die within four weeks of birth) has been much slower than infant and under-five mortality. Neonatal deaths are particularly high in the Southern, Central, East and West Africa subregions, which account for 38 percent of global neonatal deaths. Substantial improvement is needed in immunization coverage (Lancet, 2014a). Good progress on maternal mortality, but insufficient to meet the target Significant progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality in Africa. Africa has reduced its maternal mortality ratio from 870 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 460 in 2013, a 47 percent reduction between 1990 and 2013 and 2.7 percent average annual percentage change between 1990 and 2013. Despite these achievements, meeting MDG 5 remains unlikely. Limited access to contraceptives, skilled birth attendants and antenatal care as well as high adolescent birth rates have contributed to the high maternal mortality ratio (MMRs) in Africa. Many countries are tackling this challenge. For instance, Ethiopia’s community health extension programme has succeeded in bringing services closer to the people, particularly rural dwellers who historically have had difficulty in accessing health services. A reversal in the rising trend in HIV and AIDS The rising incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS among adults has been reversed in Africa due to strong political will, focused interventions and increased access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Between 2010 and 2011, the proportion of the population with advanced HIV infection with access to antiretroviral drugs increased from 48 to 56 percent in Southern, East, Central and West Africa. The HIV/AIDS incidence rate declined from 0.85 to 0.32 over the 1995–2012 period, while the prevalence rate fell from 5.8 to 4.7 percent during the 2000–2012 period. However, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Southern East, Central and West Africa is 25 million, that is, four times larger than it was in 1990 at 5.7 million. Malaria incidence, prevalence and deaths on the decline Expanded malaria treatment regimens in Africa have helped to reduce the incidence, prevalence and death rates associated with malaria. Incidence and death rates fell by an average of 31 percent and 49 percent, respectively, in Southern, East, Central and West Africa as a group. The use of preventive therapies, vector control interventions, diagnostic testing, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) and strong malaria surveillance have been critical to success. These gains notwithstanding, Africa’s malaria burden is high, and children under five years of age suffer disproportionately: in 2012 alone, 90 percent of the estimated 627,000 malaria deaths worldwide occurred in Southern, East, Central and West Africa, and 77 percent were among children below the age of five. High HIV/AIDS prevalence rates hampering tuberculosis intervention efforts Progress in reducing TB incidence and prevalence rates has been slow due to high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. Nevertheless TB-related deaths are on the decline, falling by 23 percent between 1990 and 2011. On the other hand, lack of access to effective treatment has resulted in an increase in the number of multidrug-resistant TB cases. Environmental degradation, a mixed story Carbon dioxide emissions in Africa are relatively low by global standards and declining. However, high levels of emissions in a few countries raise concerns about future trends. In contrast to CO2 emissions, the use of ODS has consistently declined between 2000 and 2011. More than half of the African countries achieved a reduction of more than 50 percent. Most African countries registered improvements in the proportion of protected terrestrial and marine areas in the 1990-2012 period. By 2012, a total of 32 countries had reached the target of at least 10 percent of the protected territorial and marine areas, compared to 19 countries in 1990. Access to safe drinking water improving, but sanitation still a challenge By 2012, 69 percent of the African population used an improved drinking water source. Performance on the sanitation indicator is poor. In 2012, 45 percent of the population in Southern, East, Central and West Africa used either shared or unimproved sanitation facilities, and 25 percent practised open defecation. Overall, most of the countries registered improvements to varying degrees in access to improved sanitation facilities during the 1990-2011 period. Only Djibouti, Nigeria, Sudan and Togo registered regressions. DAC ODA to Africa on the decline Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the Development Assistance Committee countries to Africa declined by 5 percent between 2011 and 2012, confirming predictions that the global economic crisis would eventually impact on aid to Africa. Landlocked and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have also been impacted by the decline. Between 2010 and 2011, four of the six African SIDS experienced reductions in ODA as a percentage of their gross national income (GNI) of over 25 percent between 2011 and 2012. In the absence of alternative financing, the overall decline in the volume of ODA is detrimental to both social and economic development in Africa, especially for LICs. Improving access to developed countries markets Overall, the average tariffs charged by developed nations on primary production are now significantly lower than in the early 2000s, and agricultural subsidies in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have been declining since 2000, with notable reductions of 50 percent in Turkey and Mexico, and 40 percent in Switzerland, Iceland and the European Union (between 2000 and 2011). Rising deficits: a possible threat to debt sustainability The total external debt stock in Southern, East, Central and West Africa rose by an annual average of 11 percent during the 2006-2011 period. Fourteen of the 33 African heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) are facing moderate risk of debt distress, while seven are at high risk of debt distress. African countries must pre-empt debt sustainability challenges. Mobile telephony: creating financial inclusion and economic opportunities There has been a spectacular growth in mobile subscriptions in Africa by more than 2,500 percent between 2000 and 2012. As of 2012, 74 out of every 100 inhabitants on the continent had a mobile phone. Gabon has been an exceptional performer, with a 187 percent penetration rate as of 2012. Innovations in the use of mobile telephones (e.g. M-Pesa in Kenya, EcoCash in Zimbabwe, and Tigo Pesa in the United Republic of Tanzania) have facilitated financial inclusion by promoting savings and financial transactions among the unbanked. Mobile money transfers, mobile agricultural insurance and mobile agricultural extension services are a few examples of the economic benefits of mobile phones. High costs, a barrier to Internet penetration High Internet costs are impeding access in Africa. As of 2012, Africa’s average penetration stood at approximately 14 per 100 inhabitants. High costs remain the main barrier to improved Internet use in Africa. It is estimated that Africa, particularly East, Central and West Africa, have the highest Internet prices in the world. The Common African Position: a unified voice on the post-2015 Development Agenda In January 2014, Heads of State and Government of the African Union adopted the Common African Position (CAP) to inform Africa’s negotiations on the post-2015 Development Agenda. The CAP’s overarching goal is to eradicate poverty by making growth inclusive and people-centred, enhancing Africans productive capacities to sustainably manage and leverage their natural resources in an environment of peace and security. The CAP underlines the African development priorities that should underpin the global development agenda. To this end, the CAP is anchored by the following six pillars: Structural Economic Transformation and Inclusive Growth; Science, Technology and Innovation; People-centred Development; Environmental Sustainability, Natural Resource Management and Disaster Risk Management; Peace and Security; and Finance and Partnerships.

Issue Date:
Jan 01 2014
Publication Type:
Book/ Chapter
Total Pages:

 Record created 2018-02-01, last modified 2018-02-02

Download fulltext

Rate this document:

Rate this document:
(Not yet reviewed)