Monday, June 03, 2013

Poverty reduction rate in Africa insufficient - AU
By Joan Chirwa-Ngoma
Wed 29 May 2013, 14:00 CAT

THE rate of poverty reduction in Africa is insufficient to reach the target of halving extreme poverty by 2015, notes an MDG report 2013 launched on Monday at the just ended African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

According to the report themed "Assessing progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)" prepared by the African Union Commission (AUC), UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), converting Africa's impressive economic performance over the past decade into greater gains on the MDGs remains a primary challenge for the continent.

An analysis of food insecurity - the report's theme - provides insights into how this phenomenon impacts other MDGs, particularly health-related goals, and how concerted efforts to improve agriculture, food distribution and nutrition would fast-track progress towards other MDGs, the UNDP stated in a statement released yesterday.

Climate-related shocks manifested by extreme weather conditions, according to the report, have destroyed livelihoods and exacerbated Africa's food insecurity, resulting in a high incidence of underweight children, widespread hunger and poor dietary consumption patterns.

"With fewer than 1,000 days until the 2015 target for the MDGs, the report takes stock of Africa's overall performance on the MDGs and identifies the best performing countries by indicator, based on progress relative to each country's initial conditions. Globally in 2012, 15 of the 20 countries which made the greatest progress on the MDGs were from Africa. Countries such as Benin, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Malawi and Rwanda are making impressive progress on a number of goals and targets," the report noted, adding that it is imperative that countries continue to learn from one another, as the countries that have sustained, equitable growth, with political stability and human development-oriented policies, are doing well in most of the goals.
It assessed that four goals that include MDG 2 (Achieve universal primary education); MDG 3 (Promote gender equality and empower women); MDG 6 (Combat HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other diseases); and MDG 8 which sought to increase global partnership for development were on track.
But several countries were off track in meeting critical goals such as MDG 1 on eradicateing extreme poverty and hunger; MDG 4 (Reduce child mortality); MDG 5 (Improve maternal health); and MDG 7 (Ensure environmental sustainability), although some countries recorded appreciable progress.

The report notes that Africa must put structures in place to sustain its development well beyond the MDG timeline.

"We hope that this report inspires and energizes member states to accelerate efforts towards the MDGs. Further, we recommend that the post-2015 development agenda consider the initial conditions of nation-states and recognize countries' efforts towards the goals, as opposed to just measuring how far they fall short," states the report's foreword, co-signed by the AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, UNECA executive secretary Carlos Lopes, AfDB president Donald Kaberuka and UNDP administrator Helen Clark.

"Africa must commit to inclusive, transformative development that reduces income poverty, creates decent jobs, enhances access to social services, reduces inequality and promotes resilience to climate-related hazards."

This year's MDG progress report covers a variety of issues and policy recommendations, and reveals a mixed pattern of successes, challenges, innovations and obstacles.

According to the report, attending primary school is becoming the norm but the quality of education remains a challenge.

It notes that most African countries have achieved universal primary school enrolment, with rates above 90 per cent, and the continent as a whole is expected to achieve MDG 2, adding that school food programmes and access to pre-schools have been instrumental to progress.

On gender, the report stated that women across Africa were becoming more empowered, with more girls attending both primary and secondary school, and more women in positions of political power, although cultural practices such as early marriage and low economic opportunities for women were slowing progress.

And the spread of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria has slowed down in Africa - thanks to strong political leadership, targeted interventions and the availability of AIDS medicine to the majority of people, and improved prevention and treatment efforts for TB and malaria, the report noted.

According to the report, key challenges remain on high hunger and malnutrition rates in Africa, especially among children.

In 2012, most of Africa was identified as having serious to alarming levels of hunger on the Global Hunger Index.

It has been noted that food insecurity has played a large role in slowing progress on the health MDGs, especially for children and mothers.

Climate change, political instability and population growth are among the contributing factors.
The report stated that the continent's population was increasing so rapidly that countries might not be able to produce all the food they need.

Africa, according to the report, still has the greatest burden of child and maternal deaths, although significant progress has been made, with under-five child deaths falling by 47 per cent across Africa between 1990 and 2011.

On the environment, Africa as a whole is doing well in terms of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and ozone depleting substances, yet forest cover is decreasing, the report stated.

It has recommended that African governments must put in place afforestation strategies and programmes and should constantly expand the agricultural-productivity frontier through, for example, policies that support the application of local knowledge, infrastructure investments and the development of financial markets.

The report noted that accelerating the creation of decent jobs would require bold policy changes that promote value added activities, economic diversification and investment in infrastructure.
It further argues that policy-makers must pursue inclusive growth strategies that promote broad participation of the active labour force while ensuring that the returns from growth are invested in programmes that enhance the productive capacities of broad segments of society, particularly women, young people and the vulnerable.

"To transform Africa's agriculture for improved livelihoods and economic empowerment, African governments need to keep expanding agricultural productivity through better policies and heavy investment in improved seedlings, irrigated farming, use of fertilizers and increased access to finance, " stated the report.

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