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Africa’s Progress on Development Goals Linked to Growth, Environment

Available in: Français

Washington : Sarwat Hussain (202) 473-5690
Aby Toure (202) 473 8302

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2008 — A new World Bank-IMF report warns that most countries in Africa will fall short on meeting most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight globally agreed development targets with a due date of 2015. While there has been strong growth in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and there could yet be significant progress in poverty reduction in the next decade, the region is still likely to fall short of the first goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015, with countries in fragile situations lagging the most.

The Global Monitoring Report: MDGs and the Environment—Agenda for Inclusive and Sustainable Development emphasizes that factors such as high commodity prices could further complicate prospects in the region. Rising food and fuel prices lower the income of households that do not produce these products, causing poor people to eat less food, or cheaper, less nutritious food—a significant risk in poor countries such as Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Zambia, which already have high under-five malnutrition and mortality rates.

Progress is noted in several areas—for example, a recent leveling or reduction in the national HIV prevalence rates in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a steady increase in primary school enrollment since 1990, and a sharp increase in measles vaccination from 50 percent in 1992 to 71 percent in 2006—and the report calls for a redoubling of current efforts in these and other areas of development to multiply successes in the region. Donors will also need to deliver more quickly on aid commitments made at international fora such as the Gleneagles Summit.

“In this Year of Action on the MDGs, I am particularly concerned about the risks of failing to meet the goal of reducing hunger and malnutrition, the ‘forgotten MDG’,” said Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank. “As the report shows, reducing malnutrition has a ‘multiplier’ effect, contributing to success in other MDGs including maternal health, infant mortality, and education.”

The report calls for urgent action on climate change, which may worsen food insecurity in Africa. Diseases like malaria and diarrhea are also linked to environmental factors and climate change. African countries will need support to address the links between growth, development and environmental sustainability.

A key concern is the ability of countries like Sierra Leone to meet targets for managing natural resources and controlling pollution. If a nation cannot provide clean drinking water and adequate sanitation for the majority of its citizens, it will fail to meet most of the MDGs, the report says.

The report is a reminder of the huge challenges sub-Saharan Africa faces in meeting its development and environmental protection goals,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region. “One cannot be achieved at the expense of the other, and the time for vigorous, concerted actions is now.”

To achieve the goals, the authors lay out a six-point agenda that prioritizes strong, inclusive growth; more effective aid; a successful outcome to the Doha round of trade talks; more emphasis on strengthening programs in health, education and nutrition; and support for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“This year’s high level meetings in connection with the MDG halfway point are an opportunity to agree on priorities for action and milestones for monitoring progress,” said Zia Qureshi, lead author of the report.


  • While most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are off track to halve poverty and hunger by 2015, countries such as Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda are making solid progress toward achieving the MDGs.
  • Ethiopia ’s poverty headcount as of 2005 was 39%; as of 2004, Zambia’s was 68% and in Sierra Leone 70% of citizens fell below the poverty line.
  • Africa ’s economic growth has risen from 2.1 percent in the 1990s to an average 5.6 percent in 2003-07. Challenges are greatest in a group of about 20 countries characterized by low or negative growth, and include enhancing security, providing private sector growth opportunities, and building basic government capacity to put international aid to good use. What Africa needs is a long period of sustained growth.
  • Aid to Africa has risen, although much of it is in the form of debt relief. Overall aid flows from DAC and multilateral donors to the region climbed to over $40 billion in 2006, representing an increase of $6.9 billion in real terms over 2005 levels and $12.4 billion over 2004 amounts. Aid remains essential for most countries in the region. New donors like China are growing in importance.
  • Some countries in Africa have made strong progress in strengthening development strategies and institutional frameworks for implementation. Good candidates for scaled-up aid include Burkina Faso, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania; while Mali could use a moderate increase.
  • Ten of the 11 countries worldwide with under-five mortality rates over 200 per 1,000 are in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola and Sierra Leone. Only 2 of the 33 fragile states have achieved or are on track to reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
  • Malnutrition reduces school achievement and results in inferior cognitive abilities that can persist through life. In rural Zimbabwe, childhood nutritional deficits due to civil war in the late 1970s and drought in 1982-84 led to late school entry and an estimated 14 percent reduction in lifetime earning.
  • Of all births recorded in the region, only 45 percent were attended by skilled personnel in 2006 – an increase of just 1 percentage point since 1992. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest maternal mortality rate among all developing regions.
  • The region’s proportion of population living with HIV has declined by a full percentage point since 2000.
  • Eighteen of 37 countries in the region for which data exist are not on track to achieve gender parity in primary and secondary education.
  • Eighty percent of countries in the region with available data show poor progress on improved sanitation and 44 percent of the population still lacks access to clean water.
  • In 2007, gross concessional flows from multilateral development banks crossed $12 billion. Africa received 44 percent of these flows in 2007, up from 37 percent in 2000.

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