Sub-Saharan Africa lags in progress towards MDGs
A report on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals shows that the sub-Sahara is not fairing well in overall reduced child mortality, increased school enrolment and lower poverty levels.
"Reduced child deaths, rapid gains in primary school enrolment, and reduced HIV/Aids infection rates in several countries suggest that strong economic growth, backed by improved policies in developing countries and increased aid, is delivering results," the third annual World Bank-IMF Global Monitoring Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) says.
But in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa progress is poor.
Major MDGs are the halving of the number of people living on less than a dollar a day and reducing child mortality and the incidence of HIV/Aids -- all by 2015.
To boost progress towards the MDGs, at their 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, leaders of the G8 countries pledged to increase aid to Africa by S25-billion a year by 2010 -- more than doubling assistance to the region.
"Aid must become more predictable, less fragmented, more closely aligned to countries' needs and targeted to where it will be productively used to advance the MDGs," said the lead author of the report, Mark Sundberg.
At the launch of the MDGs in 2002, developing countries agreed to improve their policies and governance.
"Less than 10 years remain until 2015, the target year for the MDGs," said World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. "It is urgent for developing countries to improve governance to ensure we get the results we seek."
The outlook on poverty has not changed since last year's report.
On current trends, if the developing world can sustain the growth momentum of the past 15 years it will be able to reduce the share of the population living in extreme poverty -- less than a dollar a day -- to 10,2% by 2015. It was 21,7% in 2002.
Sub-Saharan Africa's poverty rate is 44%, significantly lower than the 2001 level of 46,4% but projected to remain above 38% by 2015.
Yet, in the low-income countries of the region, per capita growth reached an estimated 3% for the second straight year in 2005, despite continuing conflicts and periodic weather shocks.
Continued growth is contingent on improvements in the investment climate.
According to the World Bank's "Doing Business in 2006" data, Africa has generally reformed the least in this regard.
Exceptions are Mauritius and South Africa, which both rank in the top 30 economies globally on the ease of doing business -- Namibia is not far behind at 33.
"The pay-off from easing business regulation is large," the World Bank says.
Africa also lags behind in providing basic infrastructure: "The quality of basic infrastructure contributes strongly to the investment climate," says the bank. From the 1990s to 2002, the average electrification rate for the region improved to about 27% -- a significant gain of five percentage points -- but the lowest among developing regions.
In progress in improving water and sanitation, it has been slowest of all the regions.
The report finds Sub-Saharan Africa off track on almost all the human development aspects of the MDGs.
But there are bright spots: in Niger and Guinea access to primary education has been increasing three times faster than before 2002 to 2003.
Countries making the fastest progress -- Ethiopia, Mozambique, Cambodia, Benin and Rwanda -- are exceeding the rates of improvement achieved by today's industrialised countries at a similar point in their history.
Girls' enrolments are growing faster than boys' in all regions, but in sub-Saharan Africa, the rate for girls is still more than 15% lower than that for boys.
The report highlights reduced child mortality in Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Mozambique and Cameroon.
It notes rapid gains in primary school enrolment and cites signs of the first decline in HIV/Aids infection rates in high-prevalence countries such as Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Primarily in countries affected by conflict or HIV/Aids, the share of children who die before age five has increased in the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Iraq, Rwanda, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland.
At the other extreme are African countries achieving exceptionally sharp increases in child survival -- Eritrea, Comoros, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Guinea and Egypt.
Mortality rates for mothers have improved in many countries, but not in sub-Saharan Africa.
Measuring improvements in water and sanitation, the report says that sub-Saharan Africa has had the slowest progress. Only an estimated 64% of the population has access to safe water and 37% to improved sanitation. -- Sapa