African leaders pledge to give development goals a decisive push
On the margin of the UN General Assembly, four West African presidents discussed measures that led to accelerated progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in their respective countries.
Nigeria’s experience was the focus of the debate, which featured the presidents of Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. About USD 100 million from the country’s debt relief savings were invested in an ambitious programme, led by President Goodluck Johnathan, to accomplish the goals by 2015.
“Nigeria’s steadfast commitment to the MDGs is well recognized,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Head of UNDP Africa in his opening remarks.
“The early establishment of the presidential committee on the MDGs set the tone, giving strong focus to identifying and coordinating the actions needed to meet the goals,” he added.
Nigeria has met its goal on food security (MDG 1), gender parity in primary schools (MDG 3), and reducing the number of deaths from HIV/Aids (MDG 6). With insufficient progress on maternal mortality, the government has equipped itself with a UNDP-sponsored plan to accelerate progress on this particular goal.
Known as the MDG Acceleration Framework, the plan identifies bottlenecks and proposes concrete solutions and actions to make a breakthrough on specific MDG targets and goals. It proposes to bolster family planning, conditional cash transfers, skilled birth attendance and provision of essential drugs, and universal pre- and post-natal care.
“Our work on MDG 5 will have an impact on all MDGs,” said Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu.
Speaking of his country’s breakthrough on the MDGs, the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, pointed out that while the first MDG had been attained ahead of the 2015 deadline, the country would continue to work on the lagging goals. Ghana is also using the MDG Acceleration Framework to boost progress on maternal mortality.
“As more girls go to school, they are having less children. We must keep them in school longer and let them achieve their full potential, empower them to take control of their reproductive health,” he said.
In his address, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, said the country has made remarkable achievements in the areas of primary education, access to water and food security, while technical training, universal health care and access to energy would be top priorities in the next two years.
Without inclusive growth, there is no long-term development, the Heads of State agreed. Echoing the African position on the post-2015 agenda, the speakers emphasized economic transformation, regional integration, infrastructure, mobile technology and access to energy as key priorities for development beyond 2015.
Regional disparities were also highlighted as key development issues in Nigeria and Ghana, where populations in the North have less access to services and opportunities.
“Africa must become competitive and progressive,” said Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stressing “African ownership, African-dominated programmes reflecting African aspirations and ensuring an African future”.