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Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa
Recommendations of the MDG Africa Steering Group
June 2008
MDG Africa Steering Group

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges the MDG Africa website as the source of this document: www.mdgafrica.org/achieving_mdg.html


Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, Table 1) and other internationally agreed development goals in Africa holds the promise of saving millions of lives; empowering women; addressing the scourge of illiteracy, hunger and malnutrition; and ensuring that Africa’s children have access to high-quality education and good health to lead productive lives. The concrete development results identified in this document (Table 2) map out a set of minimum thresholds in agriculture, nutrition, education, health and infrastructure that, if fully achieved, will allow African communities and countries to raise productivity and compete successfully in world markets to increase economic growth. Investing in the MDGs and promoting the private sector are critical steps in charting a course towards stability and sustained economic growth that will build capital, attract foreign investment and overcome Africa’s current need for external assistance.

Since the MDGs are too important to fail, the second half of the MDG period, which begins in 2008, must focus squarely on scaling up proven interventions to achieve the Goals. Substantial progress has been made globally in achieving the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals, but many countries remain off track to meeting them by 2015. This is particularly true in large parts of Africa where some states are fragile or emerging from conflict. The continent as a whole is lagging behind on each Goal despite a very encouraging recent rise in the rate of economic growth, an overall improvement in the policy environment, and strong macroeconomic fundamentals. In addition to the sectors identified in this document, progress towards achieving gender equality and environmental sustainability remains inadequate.

Sound public policies and investments are central for achieving the MDGs and accelerating economic growth, but they are not enough. The private sector is the engine of innovation and growth providing incomes for rural and urban populations. It is also a tremendous repository of organizational and management expertise that can increase the effectiveness of service delivery. Where possible, countries should therefore draw on the private sector to complement governments in designing, delivering and financing interventions to achieve the MDGs.

The challenge of meeting the eight MDGs in African countries is compounded by the grave long-term risk that climate change poses. African countries demonstrably require additional resources for adaptation since they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the growing risk of natural disasters. At least some of these additional resources will be needed to “climate proof” all projects and policies intended to achieve the MDGs and to strengthen the resilience of communities to the effects of natural disasters. Threats posed by climate change and natural disasters further increase the need for regional cooperation and integration in areas of economic policy, infrastructure (e.g., power pools, transport and communications infrastructure), research, and the management of trans-boundary river basins.

Similarly, the continuing threat of conflict threatens to reverse development gains in many parts of the continent. Evidence shows that security and development go hand in hand. Investing in development is critical for reducing the risk of conflict. Strong political leadership — including through regional mechanisms — coupled with effective support for peacebuilding and longer-term development are key elements of strategies to stabilize post-conflict countries and prevent the emergence of new conflicts.

The recent rise in food prices is putting great pressure on African economies and is threatening to unravel hard-won progress in fighting hunger and malnutrition. However, the crisis also offers a window of opportunity to increase needed expenditures in agriculture and to remove obstacles to an open trading system in agricultural commodities to the benefit of African countries. The dangers of a decelerating world economy add to the challenges that African countries face now and in coming years. The MDGs and the international development agenda as a whole, including a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations under the World Trade Organization, need to be kept at the forefront of the global agenda to reduce the likelihood of slower increases or even reductions in the availability of financing for development.

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