Thirty sub-Saharan African countries appear to have accelerated progress towards meeting the millennium development goals (MDGs) over the past three years, according to analysis from anti-poverty group ONE, which aims to up-end perceptions of the region as wholly off track.
At the same time some countries with very large populations, such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are failing in many areas and slowing regional progress.
The index, developed by ONE’s global policy director Ben Leo while he was at the Center for Global Development thinktank, compares countries’ observed progress on eight MDG indicators with estimates of what would be required for them to achieve the targets.
Leo said he designed the index to combat frustrating “broad brush portrayals” of MDG progress or lack thereof, with reports using regional aggregates and statements like “sub-Saharan Africa is woefully off track”. This masks the achievements of individual countries, he says, whose stories need to be teased out to understand why some have seen greater gains than others – and identify where the greatest needs remain.
For a study that relies heavily on country-level data, ONE’s report is strikingly upfront about information gaps and its methodology section is replete with caveats. “Year-to-year volatility in country performance can be significant due to a variety of factors, such as data quality, budgetary cycles and exogenous shocks,” it notes. “The time lag for the reporting of ‘current’ data – in some cases several years, or even a decade – also limits the accuracy of the results.”
“Simply put, it is difficult to definitively discern whether year-to-year differences are driven by concrete performance changes, measurement error (e.g. data noise) or some combination of the two.”
Originally published on Guardian on 29 May, 2013