Report on progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, 2013

Originally Published on South African Foreign Policy Initiative

Addis Ababa: This report is the latest update by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on the progress that Africa is making towards the Millennium Development Goals. It builds on the reports of previous years in taking stock of progress made by African countries in the implementation of the MDG commitments in 2012, including the support provided by the ECA secretariat. The central message of this year’s report is that Africa has made significant progress towards the MDGs, but that it is uneven and too slow. There are also wide variations in performance across regions and countries, as well as across targets and indicators within the goals.

The report concludes that with the agreed deadline of 2015 approaching fast, there is still much to be done to increase the pace and improve the quality of performance on various goals and indicators. With two years remaining until 2015, this assessment is of the utmost importance as it will help countries identify the targets that require concerted efforts for achievement of the MDGs.

* Conclusions and policy recommendations

Progress towards the MDGs is mixed across regions, countries, goals, indicators and targets. While Africa as a whole is making considerable progress towards many of the MDGs, many countries are still far from achieving most of the goals. Issues of quality of service delivery, particularly in the education and health sectors, inequality in access to services, lack of decent jobs, and unemployment, particularly among young people, remain high on the agenda.

Job creation will require that countries embark on commodity-based industrialization that diversifies their economies and creates employment opportunities through value addition and integration in global value chains. Complementary investment in education and health systems will improve the quality of social services, strengthen productive capacities and enhance market competitiveness. Such measures will not only reduce poverty on the continent, but also assist in narrowing gaps in access to education, health services, clean water and sanitation.

Health interventions must prioritize primary health care and rural and vulnerable segments of the population. Policymakers must lobby development partners to allocate an increasing proportion of vertical funding to strengthening health systems. A robust health system with qualified health workers and adequate medical equipment is necessary to sustain and reinforce the targeted interventions of vertical funds. African countries must also improve civil registration systems to effectively monitor health trends, particularly in maternal and child health.

Investment in education should focus on enhancing access, quality and the relevance of the educational curricula to the labour force. This will require ensuring appropriate teacher-to-pupil ratios, upgrading the skills of teachers and encouraging timely entry into school. In addition, providing transport to children in remote areas, and introducing legislation on early marriages, will improve educational access, reduce dropout rates and enhance the overall quality of education in Africa.

Through its capacity building initiatives ECA will continue to support member States in accelerating progress towards the MDGs. In this context, ECA, in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank, is assisting African countries to implement a Reference Regional Strategic Framework for Statistical Capacity-Building in Africa aimed at strengthening capacities to collect, compile and disseminate data. It will also facilitate more reliable intercountry comparisons on development indicators, including the MDGs. In addition, ECA assists countries in the design, implementation and monitoring of MDG-based development plans through training, knowledge- sharing and peer learning initiatives.

Examples include the newly developed network of development planners, as well as the LDC Monitor, which assists African LDCs to track progress towards the MDGs and the objectives of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the LDCs. ECA also contributes to the MDG policy discourse through research and country studies. The Commission’s eight-country study on social protection provided policymakers with lessons learnt on how to empower vulnerable groups and minimize inequalities through the use of this instrument.

To ensure that the post 2015 development agenda takes into account the priorities of the continent, ECA, in collaboration with AUC and other partners, has helped to organize a series of regional and subregional consultations aimed at articulating an African common position on the post 2015 agenda, which will be presented to the African Union Heads of State for adoption in May 2013.

The post 2015 development agenda must not, however, distract Africa from its immediate task of eradicating poverty, providing quality education for all, empowering women, improving child and maternal health, fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Even as the world looks beyond 2015 towards a new development agenda, countries must stay on track to make as much progress as possible by the target date. The continent has made considerable progress toward the MDGs since 2000, and has learned a great deal over the past 12 years. By implementing lessons learned, African countries should be able to overcome challenges and fast-track progress over the next three years.

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