By Paul Okediji
With the deadline for the achievement of the millennium development goals (MDGs) drawing closer, there has been several assessments of the poverty reduction drive of the MDGs and how much each country and region has done.
Though there have been reports of remarkable progress in most areas, the impact of the recent global crisis is slowing down efforts in many other areas. A closer look at the MDGs shows that some important targets would have been reached in many regions, assuming there is still continued effort at maximizing present progress in certain areas and there is continued commitment on the part of governments, the private sector, civil society and development partners
Globally, significant and commendable progress has been made towards the first goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. According to the United Nations’ MDG Report for 2013, the first MDG target has been met as the population of those living on less than $1.25 per day in sub-Saharan Africa dropped from 47 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010. In every developing region, extreme poverty rates have been falling, with China leading the way.
But how has Africa fared?
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has described Africa as “off-track” concerning the achievement of the first MDG. Although Africa is definitely making progress but it is not sufficient to meet the target by 2015. The amount of people living below the poverty line in Central, East, Southern and West Africa fell to 48.5% in 2010 from 56.5% in 1990, still 20.25% points off the 2015 MDG target, compared to 4.1% points for the Asian continent. Between 1990 and 2010, there was an increase in the number of people living in extreme poverty from 289.7 million to 423.8 million in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Liberia, Uganda, DR Congo, Angola, Mozambique and Sierra Leone have made significant progress in eradicating poverty in Africa. These countries made the most progress in improving the GDP growth rate per employed person. Several other countries have also increased labor productivity. However, countries like Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Lesotho, Botswana, etc experienced a decline in these same targets under consideration.
In 2006, Ghana celebrated being the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the target of cutting the proportion of population living in extreme poverty by half, well ahead of the 2015 deadline. A joint report by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Government of Ghana and the UNDP stated that “the overall poverty rate declined substantially over two decades from 51.7% in 1991/92 to 28.5% in 2005/2006, indicating that the target could be achieved well ahead of the 2015 target of 26%” and that “the proportion of the population living below the extreme poverty line declined from 36.5% to 18.2% over the same period against the 2015 target of 19%”. Similarly, it was also reported that the country has been working hard to reduce undernourishment and hunger from 40.5 per cent in 1990/92 to below 5 per cent in 2010/12.
Ghana’s progress on the first MDG has been attributed to a high GDP growth rate boosted by increased foreign investment outlays, increased government expenditures on key development programs and debt reliefs. The government with the support of development partners initiated a number of social intervention programs such as the National Plan for Action for Food and Nutrition, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Medium Term Agricultural Development Program, Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy, School Feeding Program, etc which have contributed to reduction in hunger and under-nutrition.
Other measures instituted by the government include adoption of productive and efficient security policies to tackle long standing civil unrests in Bawku and other regions; an improved infrastructural development – especially creating better road networks in far reach areas; and an increased resource commitment to reduce the northern-southern disparity in the incidence and depth of poverty.
Despite this widely publicized progress, there are still some challenges, with poverty disparities and nutritional problems still existing at district level. The vulnerability to global shocks such as the recent global economic and financial recession really dampened the poverty reduction efforts. However, what Ghana has achieved can encourage other sub-Saharan African countries to fast-track significant reduction of extreme poverty and hunger. Despite peculiar local characteristics and challenges, the terrain of Ghana is similar to most other African countries; its approach can be therefore be adopted in other countries.
We at MDGsInAfrica strongly believe that more African countries can achieve the first goal. With fewer than 1000 days to the deadline, a lot can surely be done to close the gap. By understanding what the challenges are, and finding out the best and most efficient ways to tackle them, just as Ghana has done, we can celebrate the achievement of the goal in other African nations.
Ghana: Millennium Development Goals Report (2010). National Development Planning Commission (NDPC)/ Government of Ghana and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Ghana
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2013, Report by the United Nations
MDG Report 2013 – Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals (2013). Joint Report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, African Union, African Development Bank Group, UNDP
Global Poverty Report (2002). Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa: Progress, Prospects, and Policy Implications. A report by the African Development Bank and World Bank