Recent estimates have shown that Africa has experienced rapid growth economically in the last decade; however, this has not translated into commensurate reductions in poverty and hunger. The importance of this goal can be seen in the fact that reducing poverty is not just an end in itself, but also a means to accelerating the progress of achieving the rest of the MDGs. This is why an evidence of progress with this particular MDG has a positive feedback effect on the achievement of the other MDGs.
One of the targets of this goal is to halve by 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day. The good news about this is that poverty is declining in Africa, but at a very slow rate. In contrast with the past when the number of people living below $1.25 per day increased year after year, surveys carried out by the World Bank has shown that there has been a substantial fall in the number of people living below the threshold. The poverty level declined from 56.5% to 47.5% between 1990 and 2008. However, the current pace of reduction is still too slow for the continent to achieve the goal by 2015.
The second target for this goal is to achieve full and productive employment and decent for all people, including women and the young; and it has been found that improvement in the business climate in some African countries and the drive for African markets are creating thousands of employment opportunities all over the continent. For instance, the Youth Empowerment Scheme of Osun State, Nigeria, has been generating jobs for youths in agriculture, public works, health and education, and environmental services. It is believed that schemes like this would contribute more in improving Africa’s employment growth over the next half decade.
Progress on the third target (of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger) is slow. Although the 2011 Global Hunger Index from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has showed an improvementof 18 per cent during 1990–2011 in Africa, recent increases in international food prices are partly to blame for the slow decline in the proportion of people who are malnourished.
Overall, Africa has made some significant progress in the achievement of this goal. However, there are country variations with countries like Ghana, Morocco, Mauritania and Egypt showing large improvements versus worsening in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite these disparities, many countries have made substantial progress, and this is encouraging.
Although Africa has strong potential to generate jobs over the medium term, addressing youth unemployment and increasing labor productivity are daunting challenges. And without specific policies to promote inclusive growth with particular focus on agriculture and the informal sector, address population growth and to promote social protection, and food security, Africa’s achievement of the first MDG may be a serious challenge.
This is a summary of the MDG 2012 Report on Africa. The full report can be downloaded here.