The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) era has seen significant transformation in the African development context. The prospects of Africa in 2015 are noticeably different from what they were in 2000: many African economies have grown at rates rivalling those of East Asia, averaging 6 percent in 2013 (with the exception of South Africa). If current growth trajectories continue, it will be possible for three out of every five African countries to become middle income by 2015.
The growth of Africa has been largely driven by natural resources, as well as its vibrant services sector, increased exports, rising private investment, and improved agricultural production. African leaders often depict the continent as a land of opportunity.
The region’s performance with reference to the MDGs indicators, however, contrasts with this gleaming image. Since 2000, the performance of Africa has lagged behind other developing economies of the world on MDG progress, especially in terms of poverty, food security, and job creation. Recent data indicates that structural development in Africa has had minimal impact on the lives of the poorest.
Nevertheless, Africa has achieved amazing gains, including bridging the gender gap in primary enrolment, placing more children in primary school, reducing child and maternal deaths, increasing the representation of women in national parliaments, and reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. These gains accentuate the vital role that national commitment and, with the support of global partnership, can play a significant role in realising development objectives.
Highlights of Africa’s performance on the MDGs
1. Poverty is decreasing, albeit slowly, with a high risk of reversals from shocks
The rate of poverty declined in 24 of the 30 countries with data available, while it increased in the remaining 6 countries, especially those largely impacted by the Ebola virus outbreak.
The greatest reduction was in Gambia at 32 percent, followed by Burkina Faso, Niger, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Malawi.
2. African productivity is increasing
The GDP growth rate per person increased by 0.6 basis points in Africa compared to 0.4 points in Asia, while that of North African reduced by 1.5 percent due to the lingering effects of unrest and mass revolutions that have swept through the Middle East and the sub region since 2010.
Africa’s GDP has been positive since 2001, averaging a minimum of 5 percent compared to the global average of 3 percent, mostly due to the growth of extractive industries like minerals, oils, and gas.
3. Although youth literacy had increased, primary education completion is a major challenge
The primary school completion rate is 67 percent, implying that one-third of pupils who start grade one don’t reach the last grade of primary education.
Only 20 percent of African countries reached the education target, including Ghana, Rwanda, Morocco, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Many of the countries stagnated due to political unrest, conflict, or poor quality of education.
The literacy rate for youths aged 15-24 reached 75 percent in over 58 percent of African countries, with exemplary performance in Algeria, Botswana, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa, Tunisia, and Swaziland. Only Ivory Coast, Niger, and Chad had literacy rates below 50 percent.
4. Significant improvements in gender parity
Many countries adopted universal primary education policies and implemented gender-responsive interventions that helped to increase the rate of girls enrolment over the year. The most improved sub-region was West Africa, followed by North Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, and then Central Africa.
5. Remarkable progress in reducing child mortality but not in maternal health
The USMR reduced from 146 deaths per 1000 live-births in 1990 to 65 deaths in 2012 in Sub-Sahara Africa, indicating a 55 percent reduction against the 66 percent reduction target.
Only Equatorial Guinea, Cabo Verde, Eritrea, and Rwanda managed to reduce their maternal mortality ratio by over 75 percent. The rest of Africa has the highest maternal mortality ratio compared to the rest of the world, with 289 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared to the global average of 210.
6. Reduced incidence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria
There has been significant decrease in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis since 1990, with even reversal in some nations. However, the continent still accounts for more than 50 percent of all cases and death rates pertaining to the three.
7. Exceptional progress towards environmental targets
Africa has the lowest carbon dioxide emissions in the world, and has reduced the consumption of ozone-depleting substance by 96 percent, compared to 100 percent in developed regions and 86 percent in developing regions.
Only 24 percent of the African population has access to improved drinking water sources since 2000, and only 16 percent of the population has access to piped drinking water. Both metrics are lowest in the world.
8. Widening gap between trade and ODA commitments and delivery
Total foreign debt has been higher than 30 percent of GDP in Africa since 2010 and is expected to rise to 37.1 per cent of GDP in 2015.
Moving forward, the post-2015 agenda will be focusing on three areas that are critical to development success in Africa: job creation; peace and security; and infrastructure and governance.