A report was recently published assesses the continent’s performance in domesticating and implementing Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since their adoption in 2013 and 2015. The report was entitled 2017 Africa Sustainable Development Report: Tracking Progress on Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals, and looked at six Sustainable Development Goals, namely Goal 1 (No poverty); Goal 2 (Zero hunger); Goal 3 (Good health and well-being); Goal 5 (Gender equality); Goal 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure); and Goal 14 (Life below water). The report found :
- Slow progress had been made in reducing poverty and inequality owing to limited employment opportunities as Africa’s growth has not created sufficient jobs to match demand, and weak social insurance mechanisms. The rate of decline in extreme poverty ($1.90 per day) has been slow in Africa, declining 15 per cent during the period 1990-2013. Women and young people were found to bear the brunt of poverty. Approximately 60 per cent of jobs in Africa were considered vulnerable. Less than 1 per cent of the unemployed received unemployment benefits and only 19 per cent of the African (excluding North African) population was covered by social insurance. This in turn, contributed to high rates of poverty among the working population. One of every three workers lived in extreme poverty in 2015. In 2015, 32.1 per cent of working men, compared with 35.1 per cent of working women, were classified as poor.
- Rising food insecurity and undernourishment were seen as a growing concern in Africa (excluding North Africa) Some 355 million people in Africa were moderately or severely food insecure in 2015. Although food insecurity declined in North Africa, from 7.7 per cent in 2014 to 6.4 per cent in 2016, in Africa (excluding North Africa), severe food insecurity increased from 25.3 per cent to 26.1 per cent during the same period. Food insecurity is invariably undermining efforts to address undernourishment. Some 217 million people were undernourished during the period 2014–2016, an increase of 6 per cent compared with 2010–2012. This was largely the result of low agricultural productivity and high population growth rates.
- Africa’s agricultural productivity is on the rise but remains well below the global average. Agricultural value added increased 9 per cent during the period 2010-2015 but was only 62 per cent of the world average in 2015. Only 5 per cent of agricultural land in Africa is irrigated, compared with 41 per cent in Asia and 21 per cent globally. Furthermore, fiscal allocations to the sector are well below the 10 per cent of budgetary resources committed in the Maputo Protocol. Globally, support for agricultural producers more than doubled, from $258 billion in 2000 to $584 million in 2014.
- Turning to Goal 5, whilst gender disparities in education and national parliaments have been declining, conservative norms and practices are holding back progress. Gender disparities have narrowed at the primary and secondary school levels, with gender parity in primary schools increasing from 86 per cent in 1990 to 96 per cent in 2013, while parity in secondary schools rose from 71 per cent to 90 per cent during the same period. The continent has made significant progress in increasing the representation of women in national parliaments, with representation increasing from 8 to 22 per cent between 1990-2015.
More women are seeking employment in the formal and informal sectors; however, limited education, conservative norms and traditions are still hindering progress. Child marriages are declining, but still remain high, in particular in Africa (excluding North Africa), where 37 per cent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married by age 18. Female genital mutilation is particularly high in North Africa, where an estimated 70 per cent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age were subjected to the procedure in 2015. Cultures and traditions that inhibit women from fully participating in education, economic activities and social life need to be addressed. Keeping girls and boys in school can promote and sustain gender equality by breaking cycles of ignorance, poverty and stereotypes.
- There have been significant gains in health during the past decade, including a substantial decline in child and maternal mortality. However, the continent still has the highest burden of maternal and child deaths compared with other regions globally. Maternal mortality rates in Africa (excluding North Africa) dropped 35 per cent during the period 2000-2015, while North Africa has already met the target of 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Similar declines are observed for under-five deaths (46 per cent) and neonatal (30 per cent) deaths during the same period. This has been possible in part to improved access to skilled birth attendants and family planning. The continent has also significantly curbed the incidence of HIV, which declined 62 per cent during the same period. Nevertheless, the averages mask significant subregional and country disparities, and Africa is home to the highest HIV incidence rate globally.
- While the overall, per capita consumption of pure alcohol in developed regions is almost double the quantity consumed in developing regions, consumption has been falling in developed regions and rising in developing regions. In Africa, consumption declined in North Africa, but rose slightly in the rest of the continent, from 6.2 to 6.3 (2005-2015) litres per capita, equalling the global consumption level. Notwithstanding their higher levels of alcohol consumption, developed regions have the lowest (8.6 %) death rate due to road traffic injuries. On the other hand, Africa, excluding North Africa, has the highest rate of road traffic-related deaths (26.6 per cent), much higher than the global average (17.4 per cent) in 2013. This trend underlines the effective role that measures aimed at enforcing road safety regulations can play in mediating the impact of excessive alcohol consumption on road traffic-related deaths.
- Weak infrastructure and limited manufacturing are undermining overall job growth. Access to quality infrastructure is a necessity for industrial development. Infrastructure connects producers to markets in an efficient manner, reduces production and distribution costs, increasing competitiveness, attracting new investors and fosters economic growth. Air freight and air travel remain extremely low in Africa, excluding North Africa, notwithstanding a rising trend. In 2015, Africa, excluding North Africa, represented 1.3 per cent and 1.5 per cent of the world air travel and air shipping, respectively. However, there has been substantial progress during the past decade and a half. Air freight and air travel increased 34 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, during the period 2010-2015. Rail transportation has been instrumental in promoting industrialization in advanced and emerging countries and could do the same in Africa. However, like air transport, rail transportation is still not very well developed in Africa: it accounted for 6 per cent of the total rail in the world, compared with 12 per cent for Asia and the Pacific and 10 per cent for Latin America and the Caribbean. Weak infrastructure has adverse consequences for manufacturing sector growth. In Africa, excluding North Africa, manufacturing value added stagnated at 10.3 to 10.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) during the period 2010-2015. The corresponding figures for North Africa were 11.2 and 11.5 per cent. Furthermore, manufacturing value added in Africa tends to be low tech. Medium-tech and high-tech industry account for a mere 0.1 per cent of total value added for all African countries with data, compared with approximately 0.5 per cent for the developed countries. The relatively low share of manufacturing value added in Africa, excluding North Africa, accounted for a 3.57 per cent fall in the sector’s contribution to total employment during the 2010-2015 period.
- 8. Limited investment in research and development
Currently, Africa as a region spends less than 0.5 per cent of its GDP on research and development, compared with more than 1 per cent in the developing region as a whole and 2 per cent in the developed regions. Research and development expenditure as a share of GDP stagnated at 0.4 per cent during the period 2000-2013 in Africa (excluding the North). North Africa experienced an increase from 0.28 to 0.51 during the same period. Advances in scientific and technological knowledge through research are critical to eradicating poverty and promoting home-grown solutions to economic and social development challenges.
- Increases in the coverage of mobile cellular services
Reliable access to broadband Internet is a key driver of economic growth, job creation and social inclusion. It facilitates a transition to knowledge-intensive economies by enhancing access to information. The proportion of the population covered by 3G mobile networks in Africa increased significantly, from 25 to 65 per cent during the 2010-2015 period. This trend has enhanced financial inclusion by facilitating virtual access to financial services by previously unbanked segments of society.
- Globally fish stocks that are at biologically sustainable levels are declining
The world’s oceans and seas play a critical role in supporting populations, economic activity and regulating the global climate. Environmental degradation and the risk of flooding are the main challenges to the oceans and coastal areas, respectively. At least 38 African countries are coastal States, 6 of which are island States and thus have a keen interest in better management of life below water. Globally, sustainable levels of fish stocks declined from 70.1 to 68.6 per cent during the 2009-2013 period owing to overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices. Subsidies to the fishing industry induce overfishing and adversely affect the ocean food chain, which can lead to food insecurity and poor livelihoods.
Growth in Africa has not been inclusive, thereby resulting in slow decline of poverty. Poverty, especially in all of Africa except the North remains widespread, with large inequalities. Similarly, food insecurity remains a major challenge in many African countries, fuelled in part by limited investment in agriculture and low agricultural productivity. That said, substantial progress has been made in reducing child and maternal deaths, in part as a result of increased access to skilled birth attendants and a decline in adolescent child births. There is also evidence of improvements in gender equality and the empowerment of women in primary and secondary school enrolment and increased representation in national parliaments. Progress has however been slowed by the persistence of discriminatory cultural norms.
Manufacturing and value addition in most African economies remains weak, contributing to limited job growth and a high prevalence of vulnerable jobs and working poor, in particular among women and young people.
Moving forward, an integrated approach to Agenda 2063 and 2030 is required to promote coherence in implementation. Poverty and inequality needs to be addressed in tandem, improving the livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable helps to reduce poverty faster. Job creation, advancing infrastructure development and enhancing human capital and labour productivity are important for reducing poverty and promoting growth. Similarly gender inequality needs to be addressed in order to improve women’s quality of life and social development.
Substantial investment in agriculture is required to contain extreme hunger, promote food security and support agro-processing industries and export trade. No African region met the target of allocating 10 per cent of the national budget to agriculture.
With the rapid population growth and a rising population of young people in most African countries, capacity development and skills training to enhance employment opportunities are needed and attention to labour-intensive sectors, such as agriculture and processing, is needed to promote employment and to reduce poverty.
Finally improving infrastructure is an important prerequisite for trade, manufacturing and industrialization. Improvements in air, marine, rail and road transportation systems locally, nationally and interconnections throughout the continent will help economic growth through increased trade.