This new report by the Economic Commission for Africa has been written against the backdrop of continued rapid economic growth in Africa, uprisings and transitions in North Africa, the festering sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), and the beginning of consultations on the post-2015 development agenda.
The findings of this year’s report confirm that steady economic growth and improvements in poverty reduction on the continent continue to have a positive impact on MDG progress. Africa has sustained progress toward several MDGs and is on track to achieve the targets of: universal primary education; gender parity at all levels of education; lower HIV/AIDS prevalence among 15-24 year olds; increased proportion of the population with access to antiretroviral drugs; and increased proportion of seats held by women in national parliament by 2015.
Even so, the report acknowledges that more needs to be done to address inequalities, including between women and men. It highlights the need to address the sub-standard quality and unequal distribution of social services between rural and urban areas. It suggests active steps to ensure that economic growth translates into new and adequate employment opportunities for Africa’s youthful and rapidly growing population, and social protection systems which grow the resilience and capabilities of poor and vulnerable households. The report urges policymakers to put greater emphasis on improving the quality of social services and ensuring that investments yield improved outcomes for the poor. Expanding access and improving the quality of social services are both imperative for MDG progress. A balance must be struck to move both objectives forward.