Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals: MDG Report 2012

Sub-Saharan Africa must provide universal access to decent jobs and social services if it is to achieve decisive development progress, according to the report .

This year the report shows that progress has been made in primary school enrolment, gender parity in primary school enrolment, the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament and HIV and AIDS prevalence rates. In spite of this progress, Africa still faces the challenges of addressing pervasive income inequalities, creating decent jobs, access to health and sanitation services.

Steady economic growth and improvements in poverty reduction continue to have a positive impact on Sub-Saharan Africa’s progress on the MDGs, the report shows, citing a 56.5 to 47.5 percent decline in the proportion of people living in poverty from 1990 to 2008.

However, these rates mask important inequalities. For instance, vulnerable employment accounts for 70 percent of job growth, and these jobs are mainly held by women. In countries like Burundi and Liberia, more than 85 percent of employed youths are working poor.

The situation is likely to be exacerbated as Africa’s population continues to grow rapidly in the absence of expanding job opportunities.

The report also highlights important gains in the areas of health and education but these are hindered by poor quality and access. For example, while primary school enrolment ratios exceeded 90 percent in most countries in 2010, only six African countries recorded primary completion rates of 90 percent and above in 2009.

In addition, while Africa has made some progress in reducing child mortality, with 50 percent falls between 1990 and 2010 in countries like Eritrea, Liberia, Madagascar and Niger, children in rural and remote areas are at a disadvantage, due to lack of qualified doctors and health infrastructure.

With less than three years to the 2015 deadline, the report urges policymakers to put greater emphasis on improving access to quality jobs, social services and safety nets. Public works programmes, youth employment schemes, insurance and school feeding programmes are among some of the initiatives that have successfully reduced poverty in countries.

While ensuring universal access, emphasis must be placed on protecting the most vulnerable from food price hikes, the effects of climate change and recurring conflicts.

As the international development community begins the process of defining a post-2015 agenda, the report also calls on Africa to articulate a common position that would take emerging challenges into account, including paying more attention to local context, and going beyond social needs by emphasizing the productive sector. It should also focus on equity, creating jobs for youth, food security, addressing resilience, climate change and peace and security.


  • MDG 1: Africa (excluding North Africa) made the least progress in reducing poverty. It is about 41 per cent off the 2015 target, versus 25 per cent in South Asia and 6.1 per cent in Latin America.

  • MDG 2: Many African countries are on track to achieve this goal. Some have progressed on net enrolment, with most countries reaching 90 per cent. Issues of quality remain.

  • MDG 3: Good progress at primary level but weak parity at secondary and tertiary levels of education. High representation of women in parliament.

  • Goal 4: Child mortality is declining but slowly.

  • Goal 5: Maternal health is still a grave concern for most of Africa.

  • Goal 6: HIV/AIDS on the decline, especially in Southern Africa, due to behavioural change and access to antiretroviral therapy. Malaria mortality in Africa rates have declined by more than a third since 2000 owing to increased prevention and control measures.

  • Goal 7: Improved water supply. Few countries have reforestation plans. Emissions minimal for most countries with little increase. Most countries reduced consumption of ozonedepleting substances by more than 50%.