In five years’ time, world leaders will assess the progress that has been made in meeting the Millennium Summit commitment to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty”. That commitment, enunciated in the Millennium Declaration of 2000 and encapsulated in the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), has been the main impetus to advance international development over the last decade.
Mandated by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have, over the past five years, jointly produced this annual report on Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals. This year, the three pan-African institutions have been joined in this effort by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
This year’s report shows that, prior to the onset of the food and fuel crises and the global recession, African countries were making steady progress toward attainment of the MDGs. Even though information is not yet available to delineate the precise impact of the three crises on MDG achievement, we know that many African countries were sharply affected by these shocks. However, with support from their international development partners, including the African Development Bank and UNDP, African countries have taken a series of measures aimed at stemming the adverse effects.
According to this report, there has been progress achieved in reducing poverty rates and moving toward the targets of several of the MDGs, even though Africa still has the highest proportion of people living in extreme poverty within the developing world. The advances made are attributed, in part, to improvements in the political, economic, and social landscape across much of the continent.
The emerging picture of Africa in this year’s report portrays a continent that has secured progress in key areas such as net primary enrollment, gender parity in primary education, political empowerment of women, access to safe drinking water, and stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS. Antiretroviral treatment is becoming available in a large number of countries and maternal mortality rates are falling in some places. On the economic front, growth has begun to pick up after the global economic and financial crises.
The report draws attention to policy innovations in Africa that are facilitating progress toward attainment of the MDGs. These innovations include new and expanded social protection programs, which were once thought to be unaffordable to most poor countries but are now embraced as important additional interventions to secure progress on key human development indicators. In addition, countries have used the MDGs as a framework for development planning, strengthening coordination and cascading the MDGs to lower tiers of government .