- The attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty, hunger, education, maternal and child deaths and climate change would remain elusive to poor countries without the support of developed countries. That’s according to the Tanzanian foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, Bernard Membe.
Membe argues that with only five years away from the deadline, there are serious gaps in the realisation of commitments on MDG 4 and 5 on the part of developing countries, including Tanzania.
Membe calls for concerted efforts by developed countries to assist poor countries to meet their commitments, adding that, “The funding gap on commitments by developed countries to Africa alone is over US$16 billion.”
To read the article titled, “MDGs unattainable in poor countries if rich nations do not help, says Membe,” click here.
- In recent months, South Africa has witnessed series of social unrest, many of which ended in violence by very poor communities who allege poor delivery of basic goods and services. The majority of South African citizens are poor and pervasive inequality exists between men and women and between black and white peoples of the country. Thus far, the poverty alleviation strategies of Government seem unable to reduce inequalities and the consequences of poverty among women in rural areas.
Many of the existing policies deal mostly with the formal sector, to the detriment of the informal, non-remunerative roles rural women perform. Most of these policies are furthermore not well implemented and hence do not benefit the maximum number of citizens. This brief examines the challenges to eradicating poverty amongst rural South African women with a view to offer a sustainable model of social justice and development.
Women and poverty in South Africa
In 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, poverty was identified as one of the challenges facing humanity. It was therefore imperative for governments to implement strategies aimed at eradicating poverty.
According to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPFA) point 16, “Eradication of poverty based on sustained economic growth, social development and social justice requires the involvement of women as agents and also beneficiaries of people-centred sustainable development.” It is noteworthy that, 15 years after the establishment of this Platform for Action, most South African women still live in poor conditions with meagre salaries, with few skills, poor sanitation and inadequate basic necessities. According to official data from Statistics South Africa, more than 25 million of the country’s 48 million citizens are women,(2) but this fact has not improved their status in any way. Social development and social justice still lack efforts to improve the status of women.
Despite large-scale urban migration, most women live in rural areas where the incidence of poverty is much higher than in urban areas. About 59.3 percent of poor individuals are rural dwellers and the highest prevalence of poor rural dwellers is found in the female population between the ages of 25-49.(3) South Africa is also rated as the 12th most inequitable country on earth.(4) In line with global commitment to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015 in terms of the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG),(5) South Africa has made specific achievements in reducing income poverty and poverty amongst those living under the international rate of less than US$1 a day.
From April 1994 - March 2004, social grants have been increased from R10 billion to R37.1 billion (around US$5 billion). During the same period, the Government has been able to provide over 435 000 homes with electricity, sanitation and safe drinking water.(6) Despite these achievements, the extent of inequality between rich and poor is so great that it is impossible to bridge the gap by 2015 with current efforts. Such inequalities are defined by several factors such as race, gender and class. This is why poverty is mostly noted among the rural, poor and black communities.
Several factors contribute to poverty amongst rural women, including gender disparities in economic power-sharing and changes in family structures caused by migration and/or ill-health. All of these factors have placed additional burdens on women, particularly those who provide for several dependants. The feminisation of poverty in South Africa has a rural and a racial dimension, to the extent that it obstructs the well-being of women and sustainable development.(7)
Manifestations of poverty include limited or no access to education, increasing mortality and morbidity from illness, chronic ill-health, homelessness and inadequate housing, and unsafe environment. Inadequate housing and homelessness significantly affects poor women, erodes their dignity and undermines social justice and development. Adequate housing (or ‘human settlement’ as it is now referred to in South Africa) for women is imperative to sustainable development.
Dignified living for women in South Africa
In 2009, the Jacob Zuma Government created the Department for Women, Children and People with Disability (DWCPD) with the mandate to “Emphasise the need for equity and access to development opportunities for vulnerable groups in our society.”(8) In other words, the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disability was established to empower women, particularly the rural poor; to ensure that they have access to basic necessities in their communities regardless of class and status. This policy is supposed to ensure social justice and development for women, especially for the rural poor, who are most vulnerable.
In addition, Government presented the Ministry of Human Settlements with a new mandate to include sanitation as a necessary condition for human settlement. Government emphasised the fact that housing is not just about physical structures, but that it should encompass other aspects aimed at ensuring the over-all wellbeing of individuals. The Ministry still has a backlog of about 2.1 million housing units which accounts for 12 million South Africans still in need of shelter.(9)
The absence of basic shelter for women exposes them to other vulnerabilities like violence and disease. The fact that women are not provided with access to the necessities guaranteed by socio-economic rights and justice is therefore at the root of many of the issues they face. The need to harness the rights of women with appropriate developmental policies to promote social justice is certainly urgent and deserves more attention and resources.
Poverty and the legal right not to be poor
For the greater part of 2009, many townships in South Africa were literally burning up with mass protests against poor service delivery and the slow pace of development in their communities. The people were angry with Government for not fulfilling most of the promises made to them during election campaigns. Why has poverty remained so prevalent amongst South Africans of colour sixteen years into democracy? Why have at least 47.1 percent of South Africa’s population consumed less than the ‘lower-bound’ poverty line as according to Statistics South Africa in 2007?
47.1 percent of citizens could not afford R322 (about US$43) for essential food and non-food items.(10) Do the protesters have the right not to be poor? They have managed to claim the right to demonstrate and picket as provided for in the Constitution.(11) The violence that followed these demonstrations underscores the depth of indignity faced by the poor, most of whom are rural women.
The South African Constitution’s Bill of Rights provides everyone the right “to have access to housing, health care services, sufficient food and water and social security.”(12) Government can only provide for these rights to the extent of available resources, however. Adopting legislation to give effect to these rights is one of the means to their realisation. Several claims have also been made in the Constitutional Court to assert these rights.(13) The legal right not to be poor is advocated especially for Africans,(14) but the content of the right is indeterminable. How do the women in the remote parts of the Eastern Cape hold the Government accountable for living in squalor and for not being able to gain employment to put food on the table?
Expanded social assistance and other grants by the Department of Social Development have greatly improved the lives of millions of beneficiaries, including women and children. Government increased grants from 1.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2000/01 to about 3.3 percent in 2007/08 and the number of beneficiaries rapidly grew from three million to 12.4 million.(15) This change in social grants policy decreased the incidence of poverty amongst individuals by at least 15 percent.(16) Despite these progressive changes in the living standards of some individuals, many continue to live in shacks and informal dwellings strewn across all cities in the country, in sharp contrast to the vibrant and bustling economic hub usually seen from across the street or town. The nature of this marked difference underscores the question of the legal right not to be poor.
Violent protests by communities are an indication of the extent of indignity and outrage experienced by the poor. In fact, the situation highlights the importance of going beyond policies and regarding non-poverty a right to be claimed by individuals and that demands accountability from Government, civil society and the international community at large.
The logical inference to be drawn from the programmes of Government is that they seem to be inextricably linked to the right to development which is seen as a claim to the legal right not to be poor. Although the right to development is a controversial topic at the global level, the United Nations (UN) supports the idea of such a right.(17) The controversy arises from the notion that the nature and content of the right is unclear. On the African continent, however, such controversies seem to have been dealt with as explicitly provided in the African charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights when it became the first legally-binding instrument to accord recognition to development as a right.(18) Academics and scholars have tried to pin the right to development as a legal right against poverty which is an affront against humanity and thus demands the narrowing of the gap between the haves and the have-nots.(19)
South Africa has made great strides in granting right of access to healthcare, housing and social security. Considering the situational analysis, it is not clear whether South Africa complies with the ideals of this right. It seems that there is a great need to align poverty alleviation policies with housing, education, health and labour matters.
Engendering social justice and development in South Africa
President Zuma said that “Programmes put in place by Government must aim at restoring the dignity of the people. This can only be achieved through investment in habitable and decent settlement which would promote human dignity and stability in our communities.”(20) He highlighted the fact that the “pervasive poverty experienced by majority of the people in South Africa today is as a result of the various Bantustan stands with no plan to develop roads, transport, sanitation, or any other infrastructure.”
In order to address the vulnerability that women face under these circumstances, the DWCPD is well poised to specifically deal with empowering women and other vulnerable groups, thereby promoting social justice and development. This can only be achieved through a Departmental socio-economic development model which adequately utilises gender budgeting and addresses critical areas of women’s needs, such as housing, health, education and employment. Unless these critical areas are managed by the DWCPD through proper mainstreaming, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, endemic and pervasive poverty will remain and women will continue being the face of South African poverty.
- Rita Ozoemena, Consultancy Africa Intelligence's Gender Issues Unit (email@example.com). The September 2010 edition of the CAI Gender Issues Newsletter is republished here with permission from Consultancy Africa Intelligence (CAI), a South African-based research and strategy firm with a focus on social, health, political and economic trends and developments in Africa. For more information, see http://www.consultancyafrica.com or http://www.ngopulse.org/press-release/consultancy-africa-intelligence. Alternatively, click here to take advantage of CAI’s free, no obligation, 1-month trial to the company’s Standard Report Series.
In addition to topical discussion papers and tailored research services, CAI releases a number of fortnightly and monthly publications, examining the latest developments in Africa, across a wide range of interest areas. Interested parties can click here to take advantage of CAI’s free, no obligation, 1-month trial to any/all of the CAI publications.
For more information, see http://www.consultancyafrica.com or http://www.ngopulse.org/press-release/consultancy-africa-intelligence.
(1) Contact Rita Ozoemena through Consultancy Africa Intelligence's Gender Issues Unit (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(2) The Republic of South Africa’s Narrative Report on the Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on the 15th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Its Platform for Action in 2010, submitted to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD).
(3) Armstrong, P, Lekezwe, B, Siebrits, K. 2010. ‘Poverty Remains the Priority for SA.’ http://www.ngopulse.org.
(4) P, Leite, T, Mckinkley and R, Osorio. 2006. “The post-apartheid evolution of earning inequality in South Africa.” Poverty Centre working paper. Page 25.
(5) The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in 2000 by countries of the world to commit themselves to dealing with core development problems of the peoples of the world. Goal 1 is to ‘Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.’ www.undp.org.za.
(6) T. Modisane & D. Masango, ‘SA on track for Millennium Goals,’ 6 September, 2005. http://www.southafrica.info.
(7) African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). 2007. Report on South Africa, quoted in Republic of South Africa’s Narrative Report on the Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on the 15th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Its Platform for Action in 2010, submitted to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). Page 4.
(8) South Africa’s Narrative Report submitted to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on the 15th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Its Platform for Action in 2010. Page 5. www.dwcpd.gov.za.
(9) Parliamentary Monitoring Group of the Department of Human Settlements Strategic Plan, 2009-2014. http://www.pmg.org.za.
(10) Armstrong, P, Lekezwa, B, Siebrits, K, 2010. ‘Poverty Remains the Priority for SA,’ http://www.ngopulse.org.
(11) Section 17 of the Constitution. Act 108 of 1996.
(12) Sections 26 (1), 27 (1) (a), (b), (c) of the Constitution. Act 108 of 1996.
(13) Soobramoney v Minister of Health, Kwa Zulu Natal, 1998 (1) SA 765 (CC), dealt with the right of access to health care and emergency treatment in terms of section 27 (3) of the Constitution; Government of South Africa & Others v Grootboom & Others 2001 (1) SA 46 (CC) dealt with right of access to adequate housing. Soobramoney and Grootboom died without realising these rights despite the urgent need. Other cases include Minister of Health & Others v Treatment Action Campaign & Others, (N0 2 ) 2002 (5) SA 721 (CC), which dealt with right of access to health care to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV for pregnant HIV positive mothers-to-be; and Khoza & Others v Minister of Social Development & Others 2004 (6) SA 504 (CC).
(14) Udombana, N, 1993. “The Third World and Right to Development.” in Human Rights Quarterly, 589.
(15) Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhon further increased the social grant in the 2010 budget.
(16) Armstrong, P, Lekezwe, B, Siebrits, K, ‘Poverty Remains the Priority for SA,’ NGO Pulse, http://www.ngopulse.org.
(17) United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Right to Development was adopted by the General Assembly in 1986.
(18) The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted on 27 June 1981 and it entered into force on 21 October 1986. Article 22 provides that “all peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind, states shall the duty, individually or collectively, to ensure the exercise of the right to development.”
(19) Hansungule, M. 2006. ‘The Right to Development.’ Centre for Human Rights University of Pretoria, p 7.
(20) Zuma, J, ‘Good Human Settlement makes good future,’ Independent Online, 18 May 2010, www.iol.co.za.
- With only five years remaining until governments are to meet the targets set out by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the sub-Saharan Africa region continues to have the highest poverty rates in the world, with millions of people living on less than US$1 per day.
Certain countries, like Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda, have shown great progress towards decreasing poverty levels, while the rest of the region continues to lag behind on the 2015 deliverables.
However, among a range of seemingly futile poverty reduction strategies, some initiatives, including women-led microfinance projects, show promise and have returned positive results.
After emerging in the early 1990s, microfinance Institutions (MFIs) have increased in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, with current records from the 2009 Africa Microfinance Analysis and Benchmarking Report showing that more than 195 active MFIs exist throughout the region.
In Malawi, some MFIs have made concerted efforts to target women. These goals are in line with MDG3 which focuses on achieving "female empowerment, gender equality and control of resources, such as money," with the end goal of reducing vulnerability, eliminating discrimination, providing freedom from patriarchal constraints and providing women with economic stability.
For instance, The Hunger Project (THP), an international non-profit organisation committed to ending world hunger in Africa, Asia and Latin America, currently reaches more than 110 000 people in 190 villages in Malawi, and is providing women with new skills in small business management and agricultural development to help them ‘lead lives of self-reliance’.
Delifa Zulu, a mother of five from Nancholi, an impoverished district on the outskirts of Blantyre's city centre, sells vegetables in the market thanks to a loan from THP. "When I am here I can feed for my family," she says with a smile. "And my children are all able to go to school."
Women who choose to partake in the project's agricultural initiatives receive the loan as a group and are required to pay back the full amount with interest every month after receiving the loan.
"I now feel more powerful," says Zulu. "I don't have to beg my husband to send my kids to school. I can still manage my family."
According to a 2009 Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) report, sub-Saharan Africa reached 6.5 million borrowers by the end of 2008, which is higher than Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Women made up 57 percent of all microfinance borrowers.
Finley Kandaya, operations manager for Malawi's Finance Trust for the Self Employed (FISE) says his organisation, a branch of World Vision International, has been able to assist about 13 000 Malawians.
"Currently the membership that we have is in excess of 3 000, in which 60 percent of those are women," he says.
Before FISE grants an individual credit, they have to provide collateral savings of 20 percent of the requested loan, with a set interest rate of four percent.
"The repayment rate for women is quite interesting, it's so good," says Kandaya. "Since most women take loans as groups, they use a strategy known as peer pressure, so they are paying really well. If a member fails to pay back a loan, it's in the group policy to follow-up. We do not directly confiscate property."
Similarly, a grassroots organisation based in Chirimba, in southern Malawi, called Women for Fair Development (WOFAD), emerged in 2005 after a group of women - mostly widows infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS - decided to do something to improve the living standard of their community, 85 percent of whom were affected by HIV and AIDS.
With money provided by the United States Embassy, the director, Linnah Matanya, distributes grants to more than 55 women across three rural villages, who then opt to take part in a bursary programme, operate small businesses, or buy livestock.
Matanya says these projects "reduce stigma and discrimination in the community because the women can stand on their own. They have a free mind now."
WOFAD trains 20 women in small business management for the timber project - a profession often dominated by men - and afterwards, the women have the skills needed to train another 20 women, ensuring sustainability.
In the past, most women involved in the timber industry barely made five dollars a month and now they bring home approximately US$400: more than enough to support themselves and their families.
However, vice-president of the New York-based MicroFinance Transparency, Alexandra Fiorillo, outlines certain concerns over lending.
In a September article in The Nation, one of Malawi's national newspapers, Fiorillo said there is a definite "need for increased transparency on interest rates and charges levied by micro-finance institutions" in order to ensure customers make informed decisions when taking loans.
She urged the Malawi microfinance industry to "start practicing transparent pricing for their long-term survival, growth and relevance in the financial industry."
Addressing poverty is not cut and dry. With deeply embedded hierarchical corruption so often prevalent in developing countries, it remains to be seen if microfinancing institutions can bridge the gap between the extreme rich and the poor.
Yet for women like Zulu who must support a family of five, microfinance has been a lifesaver. "Without THP, people were really finding it difficult to move forward. Since they came to our village it has changed our lives for the better."
- Andrea Lynett is a Canadian journalist based in Malawi with Journalists for Human Rights (JHR). This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service.
- The Treatment Action Campaign and other activists have called on rich nations to double their pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria. They say the Fund ‘desperately needs more money if the world is to meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
The activists have also voiced fears that a new campaign to tackle needless deaths among women and children launched at the recent MDG summit in New York might divert money and attention from the Global Fund.
TAC general-secretary, Vuyiseka Dubula, maintains that, "The goal of universal access to (HIV/AIDS) treatment won't be met without more money and human resources. The Global Fund has been the most successful funding international mechanism (for such programmes)."
To read the article titled, “More Money Needed to Fight Aids, TB,” click here.
- The Global South-South Development Expo 2010 (GSSD Expo) is designed as a concrete response to the strong commitment made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Development Programme Administrator to help the Global South realise its shared aspirations for achieving sustainable and equitable development through the sharing and transfer of Southern-grown development solutions.
The GSSD Expo enables developing countries and their development partners - including donor agencies, organisations of the United Nations system, and private-sector and civil society organisations – to collaborate and showcase their evidence-based South-South development solutions. It provides a powerful platform for Southern development actors to celebrate successes, share knowledge and lessons learned, explore new avenues for collaboration and initiate new collaborative efforts towards achieving the objectives set forth in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally agreed development goals. In addition, the GSSD Expo facilitates the forging of innovative and inclusive partnerships for South-South cooperation, including triangular and public-private partnerships. Since its inception in 2008, the GSSD Expo has featured contributions from hundreds of partner countries, United Nations agencies, private sector enterprises and civil society organisations - and over 100 Southern development solutions relevant to achieving the MDGs have been showcased.
Registration: Click Here.
For more information, click here.
Event start date:22/11/2010Event end date:26/11/2010Event venue:International Labour Organisation Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
- Transparency International (TI) says that the failure by governments to address corruption is threatening the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It however called on governments, donors and NGOs to adopt anti-corruption measures in all their MDG action plans to reach the goals in the next five years and sustain progress beyond the 2015 timeline.
TI chairperson, Huguette Labelle, points out that governance breakdowns and corruption are significantly slowing down the progress towards the MDGs. Labelle states that, “As we take stock, it is clear that anti-corruption and good governance measures need to be fully integrated in all future development efforts."
To read the article titled, “MDGs - 'corruption threatens targeted goals',” click here.
- Amnesty International (AI) has accused governments failing to make a concerted effort to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of abusing the human rights of the poorest in society.
The group's criticism came ahead of a United Nations Summit later this month that will see heads of states meeting to review the progress on MDGs.
According to Amnesty International (AI) over a billion people living in informal settlements continue to be excluded in the MDG plans. It says the goals on informal dwellings focused on improving the lives of only a 100-million informal dwellers.
To read the article titled, “MDGs exclude the poorest of the poor,” click here.
- African leaders say they could do more to meet United Nations (UN) goals to slash extreme poverty and urged stronger leadership among developing countries to tackle hunger and disease and attract investment.
Speaking at the UN poverty summit in New York, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, pointed out that if Africa fails to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the world would have failed.
In the same vein, UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, announced a multibillion-dollar strategy to boost women's and children's health.
To read the article titled, “African leaders urge action on poverty goals,” click here.
- Most countries in Africa are not on course to meet most of the targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but on the level of policy, the goals have forced African governments to more seriously address their roles in alleviating poverty on the continent compared to past.
Since the inception of the MDGs in 2005, progress has been made in some African countries in relation to their specific realities, but much more needs to be done.
The MDGs have undoubtedly influenced government budget plans in several countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Malawi. The goals have also impacted on increased allocation of resources to such sectors as water and health care in most East African countries.
So if one is to assess the impact of the MDGs in broader terms, it would be safe to say that they have contributed to the movement towards eradicating poverty, but at a slow rate.
Two Crucial MDGs for Africa
The two most crucial goals for Africa in my view are Goals 1 (ending poverty and hunger) and 2 (universal education). But one cannot speak of Goal 2 leaving out Goal 3 (gender equality).
Goal 1 enables people to make an income so that they can feed themselves and care for themselves. So if progress is made on enabling people to feed themselves and earn a decent income, this will lead to higher government revenues which can then be invested in achieving other goals.
Progress also has to be made on agriculture and agricultural productivity. An active agricultural community can have direct access to food and increase their incomes. Given that a majority of Africans are still working the land, this will reduce income poverty directly.
Failure to have active economies for poor people means that the only way to achieve the MDGs is to rely on international aid.
International aid is useful if well used and if it comes with less damaging strings attached, but is often very unreliable, especially in Africa.
It is sometimes good and most of the times bad. So Africans need to achieve Goal 1 so that they can stop relying on other people for sustenance.
Goals 2 and 3 are important because one cannot transform a population on the back of illiteracy and repressive gender relations.
All the goals are linked and one cannot address one goal without taking into consideration the other goals. The strength of the MDGs lies in their attempt to create a comprehensive approach to poverty eradication.
Citizens must take initiative
To ensure that progressive steps towards poverty eradication are taken, citizens need to be aware that governments made a commitment to their people to achieve the MDGs.
If the people do not put pressure on the governments to act, then the government officials can easily relax and not prioritise the MDGs.
Holding governments accountable and putting pressure on them is the most important thing that citizens should do in order to ensure that their needs are met.
African citizens should also try and work with their local governments as they are closer to the grassroots level problems than national governments.
But even if the citizens themselves become active in trying to push for their needs to be heard, there are major hindrances that lie in their way.
One such obstacle is the legacy of twenty years of liberalisation ideology. African countries adopted structural adjustment programmes which are now affecting them drastically. These programmes encouraged governments to privatise everything and to free capital and markets from regulation.
Governments were discouraged from supporting their farmers and their small and medium-sized industries indirectly. Alongside this, there were encouraged to throw open their markets to imports in the belief that import competition will lead to efficiency. A belief which has no historical precedence and yet the African policy elite bought wholly into it.
These market-oriented ideologies are the ones that are making African states fail to protect their people economically. Most states have very liberal markets that allow imported products to suffocate the local products. So this liberalisation ideology then acts as a hindrance to self sustainability.
The other big obstacle is the existence of corruption within our African states. The government officials who used to be so disciplined in the days of the nationalist leaders of Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda are now thinking it is okay to privatise parts of government to their own private companies, thus making the people who run the government key stakeholders in the private sector too.
Corruption will always affect the distribution of funds and resources to achieve poverty alleviation and that is why it is necessary to ensure effective public oversight over government expenditures.
Nevertheless, public investment is crucial to making progress in poverty eradication as this is necessary to provide infrastructure, train the work force for health education etc, invest in value-added production and provide direct employment.
China is a good example of poverty eradication through the use of government-centred investments.
UNMC role in progress
The United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) is trying to do three things over the next 3 years to try and accelerate the progress on MDGs in Africa.
First is the mobilisation of people, including through youth movements and gender equality movements and civil societies so as to put pressure on the governments to keep their promises.
Second is monitoring, UNMC is trying to find ways in which they can work with citizen groups to monitor that resources that are meant to be spent in order to achieve the MDGs.
Thirdly, the UNMC is focusing on policy. The UNMC wants to start discussions on the issues of Africa¹s ability to transform their economies, create decent jobs and put incomes in the hands of the poor. Most governments in Africa believe that they can grow through aid and natural resource extraction, but this does not do anything for job creation and sustainable income generation.
Despite the slow progress on the MDGs in Africa, some countries such as Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia and many more have made good progress in the education and health sectors. A few, such as Malawi, Ethiopia and to some extent Kenya (before the election-related violence), have also made significant progress in the area of agriculture and food production.
Increased intra-Africa trade (especially in East Africa) has contributed greatly to the management of hunger and food shortages.
If more countries can start to engage in intra-Africa trade they would be helping themselves because this will create larger markets to support the expansion of local production, not only in food and agriculture but also in low-technology manufacturing and value-added services.
African countries should start opening up doors to each other so that they can share and trade effectively among each other. This way acceleration on achieving the MDGs can be realised. But this will require rolling back on the extreme import liberalisation regimes, reinstating industrial policy to promote value-added production and innovation and increased public investment to address the problem of skills and infrastructure.
Above all, it will require a rethinking of the role of state in the economy and society generally, what others call a developmental state - one dedicated to intervening in society minimise rent-seeking and encourage value addition, to redirect rents including natural resource rents to benefit the poor and the productive sectors and a system of taxation that is effective and equitable, among others.
- Charles Abugre is Deputy Director for Africa of the United Nations Millennium Campaign. This article was first published by Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa and is republished with its permission. (http://ipsnews.net).
- The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has called on the results-based approach if African countries are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Speaking to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation on the sidelines of the MDG Summit in New York, NEPAD’s head of planning and coordinating agency, Ibrahim Mayaki, also argued that there will be no reductions in poverty without reductions in inequality first.
Mayaki states that: "Poverty is absolutely linked to inequality, so by reducing inequality, you reduce poverty so when you have socio-economic strategies which do not take into account the reduction of inequality, it is harder to attain the MDGs".
To read the article titled, “NEPAD calls for results based approach to achieve MDGs,” click here.