Helping Africa's poor to manage risks key to region’s progress, says new report
New York — African countries should enhance the
strength and resilience of their poor populations through targeted
social safeguards, according to “Assessing Progress in Africa toward the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”, a region-specific report released
This year’s annual report shows that such
policies will help in the region’s steady progress on some of the MDGs,
eight internationally-agreed targets to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal
and child deaths, disease, gender inequality and environmental
degradation by 2015.
In spite of this progress, recent food,
fuel and financial crises, coupled with threats from climate change and
the recent instability in North Africa are likely to affect the region’s
“We urge policy-makers to recalibrate their
social protection programs, so that they are perceived not as handouts
but rather as measures to strengthen productive assets,” said the
authors of the foreword to the report.
According to the report, national schemes,
such as pensions, safety nets and school feeding programmes, can impact
positively on several MDGs by addressing the immediate needs of the most
vulnerable, providing them with labor market skills and safeguards
against relapses into poverty.
The document lays out a number of success
stories in the area of policy, including Algeria's social protection
scheme that contributed to reducing unemployment from 30 to 10 percent
between 2000 and 2009, and Ethiopia’s 2005-2008 public works projects
that led to construction of nearly 4,500 rural classrooms and improved
food security for 7.8 million citizens.
Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme,
covering 67 percent of the population, cut out-of-pocket expenditure for
health by 50 percent. In Malawi, agricultural subsidies and outreach
services resulted in an increase in the number of food-secure
households, from 67 to 99 percent between 2005 and 2009.
Such schemes provide immediate protection
for the poor while also making a longer term contribution to creating
dynamic economies and more resilient societies, according to the report
published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Commission (AUC).
Thanks to policy innovations and social
protection schemes, Africa has made steady progress on a number of
targets. For example, it increased primary school enrolment rates from
65 to 83 percent between 1999 and 2008.
In addition, 80 percent of the 36 African
countries that have data for 1990 to 2010 increased the number of women
in parliament during that period; and HIV/AIDS prevalence rates have
dropped from just under six percent in 2001 to five percent in 2009.
However, while all regions of the world
made progress on reducing maternal mortality, Africa faces a formidable
task on this indicator, with several countries showing averages of 1,000
deaths per 100,000.
In addition, although the population with
access to safe drinking water increased from 56 to 65 percent between
1990 and 2008, the rate of progress is insufficient for the continent to
reach the 2015 MDG target of reducing by half the proportion of people
without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
Progress on some of the MDGs may have
stalled or been reversed by the impact of the global economic crisis on
Sub-Saharan Africa where the proportion of those earning less than
US$1.25 a day decreased from 67 to 58 percent between 1998 and 2008.
More than 20 percent of young people in
North Africa, for example, remained unemployed in 2008, while more than
75 percent of the labor force in Sub-Saharan Africa had vulnerable jobs
In addition to carefully targeted and
fiscally sound social safeguards, the report says more attention should
be focused on designing strategies that promote job-rich growth and
increase agricultural productivity.
To access the report, please visit http://www.undp.org/africa/mdg/
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