MDG Report 2015: Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind the other developing regions on most targets, despite progress

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A billion people have been lifted out of poverty since the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 15 years ago, making it the most successful anti-poverty movement in history. More than a billion people have been brought out of extreme need.

According to the 2015 MDG report, released on Tuesday at the ongoing 10th edition of the African Economic Conference in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, while worldwide there were remarkable gains made on the eight goals, progress has been uneven across regions and countries, leaving significant gaps.

In particular, Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind the other developing regions on most targets, despite progress. 

“Since 2001, the MDGs have substantially shaped the development discourse and helped improve the targeting and flow of aid,” said Takyiwaa Manuh, Director, Social Development Policy Division at the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

However, Manuh underscored the need to build on successes in implementing in MDGs to facilitate implementation of the new set of development goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The new global SDGs aim to address the three interconnected elements of sustainable development: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

In Africa, the efforts to achieve the SDGs will be aligned with achieving the vision of an integrated, peaceful and prosperous continent, as articulated by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which also calls for achieving prosperity based on people-focused development.

Manuh pointed out that the SDGs have a strong element of inclusiveness as they were adopted after an intensive participatory process including consultations with civil society and the private sector.

To advance effective implementation of SDGs, Manuh highlighted the need for an integrated approach to development and exploiting synergies across the different the goals.

“Poverty reduction without paying attention to the underlying causes can be unsustainable,” she said, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach to facilitate implementation of SDGs.

She also underscored the need for strong national statistical systems, pointing out that availability of good quality data is crucial to monitoring progress.

On the first target of reducing by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty (defined as the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day), for example, the UN reports that it was achieved globally five years ago, but in the region, more than 40 per cent of the population still lives in extreme poverty.

Notably, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia had comparable rates (57 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively) in 1990, but by this year, the latter’s had fallen to 17 per cent compared with the former’s 41 per cent.

However, Sub-Saharan Africa has made the greatest progress in primary school enrolment among all developing regions.

Its enrolment rate grew from 52 per cent in 1990 to 78 per cent in 2012. That is, from 62 million children to 149 million, according to the report.

The developing regions have also achieved the target on eliminating gender disparity at all levels of education, with a parity index of 0.98 in primary and secondary education and 1.01 in tertiary education. The accepted measure of gender parity is between 0.97 and 1.03.

However, significant differences remain across regions and countries, as disparities favouring either sex can cancel each other out when aggregated, according to the report.

With regard to wage employment, the proportion of women earning an income outside the agricultural sector has increased from 35 per cent in 1990 to 41 per cent currently, but gender gaps persist.

“Despite notable gains by women, significant gaps remain between women and men in the labour market. Women are still less likely to participate in the labour force than men,” says the report.

Maternal survival, on the other hand, has improved significantly since the adoption of the MDGs, dropping by 45 per cent worldwide between 1990 and 2013, from 380 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 210.

Despite this progress, every day hundreds of women die during pregnancy or from childbirth-related complications.

Maternal deaths are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which together accounted for 86 per cent of such deaths globally in 2013.  

Water, on the other hand, remains scarce, affecting 40 per cent of people in the world, and this scarcity is projected to worsen.

According to Issa Faye, the Manager of the Research Division, African Development Bank, the Bank is committed to supporting the implementation of Sustainable Development for All Agenda.

Specifically, the Bank has earmarked at least $400 million to facilitate countries to implement the SDGs.