In the Africa’s Pulse report published in April 2010, the World Bank said despite Africa’s great progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the continent was still off-track on most of the goals.
Two years after the report came out, and with less than three years left for the 2015 MDGs deadline, Africa is still not well-positioned and many observers fear that many countries might not make it to the MDGs’ finish line, a fiasco analysts say could increase friction in society and engender political instability.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Senegal chief Fatou B Djibo recently expressed serious doubts about Africa’s achievement of its MDGs goals, saying that the continent still has countless challenges affecting mostly the sectors of health, education, access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and food security, among others.
Djibo said: “Twelve years after the formulation of these objectives and within three years from the date of 2015, Africa still has highest rates of poverty compounded by persistent food crises, political and security, and this despite significant progress resulting from considerable efforts by all development actors.
“These challenges allow us to take stock of our collective efforts to learn and wonder if Goal 1, which is eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, is achievable.”
The MDGs, which were adopted at the UN Millennium Summit of September 2000, comprise eight goals: (1) eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, (2) achieve universal primary education, (3) promote gender equality and empower women, (4) reduce child mortality, (5) improve maternal health, (6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, (7) ensure environmental sustainability, and (8) develop a global partnership for development.
“The reason why many African countries are lagging behind in the achievement of the MDGs have to do with a number of issues,” Civicus spokesperson Mandeep Tiwana told Moon of the South.
“These include inequalities in the global economy where traditionally rich countries and emerging economies are able to dominate trade and commercial affairs to the detriment of the least developed country.”
Tiwana added: “Secondly, governance failures including corruption, mismanagement of resources, political patronage and various types of political conflict have prevented African countries from making sufficient progress on the MDGs.
“There is also a shocking lack of data on the achievement of the MDGs which is a matter of serious concerns.”
South Africa-based Tiwana warned of grave consequences should many African countries fail to achieve the MDGs. He said: “Non-achievement of the MDGs can have grave consequences. Failure to cut poverty levels and create employment among the youth who make a huge proportion of Africa’s population could lead to increasing friction in society and greater political instability.”
Tiwana reiterated that good governance was a critical factor in the achievement of the MDGs. “The existence of democratic freedoms and a vibrant civil society are essential to ensure that the benefits of development are equally distributed in society, and also to keep a check on corruption and mismanagement of resources,” he said.
Tiwana said in many African countries, civil society operates in a highly disenabling environment created by restrictive laws and policies, attacks on human rights defenders and journalists and an unwillingness of governments to engage with civil society on critical issues.
He also slammed the non-holistic approach of the MDGs for only picking on a few of the promises made by world leaders in the UN Millennium Declaration.
“For instance, the Millennium Declaration urged that ‘men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice. Democratic and participatory governance based on the will of the people best assures these rights.’
He said: “The MDGs focus on only on freedom from hunger and some aspects of dignity by pledging to halve poverty by 2015. Some autocratic governments may claim to have reduced poverty but they have done this at great costs to their societies by purging their political opponents, unleashing repression against critics and creating friction which can ultimately destabilise development.”
Despite not naming one typical example of an autocratic leader, analysts believe President Paul Kagame of Rwanda fits this category. Kagame, a good friend of the US and UK, has been praised for elevating Rwanda’s economy and improving the lives of his people.
But he did so, according to critics, in the back of a serious political repression and violence, jailing and killing political opponents, detaining and gagging critical journalists, and supporting rebellion in eastern DRC.
On the issue of women’s emancipation and gender equality (Goal 3) vehemently opposed by African conservatives and traditionalists, Tiwana insisted that gender parity was a critical issue the continent needed to do much more about.
“This requires nation-building efforts to change patriarchal mind-sets and increase the levels of women’s participation in all sectors of society,” he said.
“In particular, efforts need to be made to prioritise women’s appointment to management and decision making positions.”