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MDGs in Africa

August 27, 2014

The pressing need to address poverty around the world and the opportunity provided by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) made them the rallying cry of a global partnership and the cornerstone of international and regional development policy. For the first time in history, a diverse range of players across the globe agreed on a common platform of priorities for addressing the many faces of extreme poverty, hunger, joblessness, diseases, lack of shelter, gender inequality and environmental decline.

The MDGs are not just goals but measurable targets attached to a time-frame of making a difference in the lives of billions of people. Governments in developing and developed coutries alike came together and committed themselves to provide the resources and the policies to implement these objectives successfully.

African leaders had adopted the MDGs as a veritable tool within their wider development planning framework, in order to end the tragic conditions in which so many Africans are deprived of their basic rights such as rights to health, education, shelter and security. By making the MDGs work as tools for coordinating development policy within broader development priorities, African leaders are tackling extreme poverty that is hobbling their people, making their countries more productive and working to reduce the risk of conflict.

The MDGs provided Africa with new impetus to reverse deterioration in human development. The world have made significant progress and Africa is progressing overall as average income rose; the number of people living in extreme poverty is declining; life expectancy have risen from 65 years to 67 years and primary school enrolments and access to safe drinking water and sanitation increased. However, progress varies across regions, between and within countries.

However, despite this significant progress, Africa fare worst among the world regions. It has seen slow progress and continue to suffer reverses in some crucial areas. Sub-saharan Africa, with few exceptions, still lags behind, thus the urgent need for some "quick win" strategies to achieve the MDGs in Africa.

These 'quick wins' are within the reach of most individual African governments which can seize this opportunity for effective partnership with the international community. These governments can end user fees for primary schools and essential health services; work towards the distribution of free mass bed nets and anti-malaria medicine for all children; the expansion of antiretroviral treatment to AIDS patients; expansion of school meals programmes and ultimately, massive replenishment of soil nutrients for small holder farmers in lands with nutrient deficient soils through distribution of free fertilizers.

Investment in people, particularly youths and infrastructure is urgently needed since growth and development comes only with good governance.

As we move closer to 2015, measures must be taken to ensure that we implement "quick wins" actions that will improve the lives of millions of Africans and boost growth. A paradigm shift is needed to achieve a true reversal of present trends in economic and human development on the continent in order to achieve the MDGs and create sustainable development across the continent!

Henry Ekwuruke Henry Ekwuruke is the Executive Secretary of the Development Generation Africa International (DGAi), and the Nigerian Regional Coordinator of University Community Partnership for Social Action Research Network (UCP-SARnet).
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