Why Africa is unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2008

30 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. Declaration of the MDGs
2.1 International acceptation of the MDGs
2.2 The content of the MDGs

3. The success of the MDGs
3.1 The achieved results
3.2 Conclusion of the achieved results

4. Africa and the failures in development politics
4.1 Problems for Africa created by industrialised countries
4.2 Internal Problems of Africa
4.2.1 Corruption in Africa
4.2.2 Conflicts in Africa
4.2.3 Missing HIV/Aids awareness in Africa

5. New Strategies for Africa?

6. Conclusion

7. Literature: Books and Articles

8. Internet sources

9. Appendix

1. Introduction

The Millennium Development goals (MDGs) were set in 2000 as an ambitious goal to improve the situation in developing countries in fields such as education, reducing poverty or improving the health situation for the poor. Those goals shall be achieved until the year 2015, which means that halve of the time between the settings of the goals and the supposed reaching of those has passed. Thus it is time to ask how successful the tries have been until now, and if it is still realistic to achieve those goals. This paper will place special emphasis on Africa and especially Sub-Sahara Africa. In this region the smallest progress can be seen, and in certain areas no success as all can be witnessed. The main question, which will be answered in this paper, is therefore: “What are the problems that prevent the countries in Sub-Sahara Africa to achieve the Millennium Development goals?”

In the first section of the paper the Millennium Declaration, which was signed in September 2000, will be introduced, and the growing international acceptation of those goals will be mentioned. (Qureshi, 2004)

After that the present situation will be described. When all developing countries are seen together, the data suggest that improvement has taken place and that the implemented strategies have been at least partly successful. But this is a very limited view, as there are different categories of developing countries. The situation in the two biggest countries of the world China and India has improved significantly, and Asia in general has made some progress, especially the regions East and South-East Asia show significant improvement during the last years.

The next section will analyse the poor performance of African countries and why this is the case. Two major possible explanations will be given. On the one hand it could be the fault of the giving countries, since they are not investing enough money in Africa. The countries promised to invest 0,7% of their GDP in development issues, but only very few countries like Denmark or the Netherlands fulfilled this promise. Other countries like the USA and Japan are especially far away from this goals, but also the big European countries are not reaching this target and instead invest only around halve the amount (Klever, 2006). Several other aspects worsen this picture, such as the missing concentration on reducing poverty[1] with this money or the subsidization of the agricultural products that destroy the local markets in Africa.

On the other hand not only the giving countries have to be analysed when looking at the failures of the last decade, also the situation in the African countries themselves has to be monitored. Corruption or mismanagement have lead to the situation that some of the money which was intended for the poor has only reached the high politicians instead of the needy part of the population. Other factors that contribute to the negative impact are that some African political leaders are blind towards the problems that face the population. Especially in the case of the immune disease HIV/Aids this can be seen dramatically. The president of Gambia still tells the people of his country that he is capable of curing Aids. All he needs to do in order to achieve this is to apply some bananas to the skin of the people and than to speak some religious formula. If the sick person than still dies it is because the person does not live according to Gods will (Velayati, 2007). The president of South Africa on the other hand declared that he does not know a person who died from this disease. This is at least very surprisingly since South Africa is one of the countries with the highest percentage of infected persons. .

The last part of the main paper will look at possible new strategies, which could be used in order to improve the situation in Sub-Sahara Africa.

In the conclusion the main findings of the paper will be summarized and it will be pointed out that only a better co-operation between the developing countries and the giving countries can lead to an improved situation in Sub-Sahara Africa. Only if the leaders in the developing countries care about their poor people there is a realistic chance that money reaches down to this level. At the same time if this becomes reality, it is important that more money is invested into Africa, in order to be able to implement programs successfully.

2. Declaration of the MDGs

The 1990s saw a change in the development strategies compared to one and two decades earlier. In the beginning of the 1970s it was widely believed that a poverty reduction by simple growing of the economy was possible (Nuscheler, 2005 P. 77 ). This got critiqued in 1973 by World Bank President Robert Mc Namara, as he pointed out that this only helped the richer part of the population and that this strategy condemned the poor to a continuous life in poverty (World Development report 1980). The start in the 1980s was optimistic and for a first time it was tried to concentrate on the situation of the most marginalized people in the countries. However, those ten years are now often described as “lost years” in the development politics, since most goals could not get achieved (Nuscheler, 2005).

Thus a new strategy was needed in the 1990s to improve the use of the development aid and to strengthen the receiving countries. 1995 at the social summit meetings in Copenhagen the deciding actors realized that the growing income gap in the developing countries was one of the basic problems that needed to be solved (Windfuhr, 2000 p.177). One year later the paper “Shaping the 21st century” was introduced in the Thirty-Fourth High level meeting of the Development Assistance committee. In this paper the ambitious goal was mentioned to halve the number of people who live in extreme poverty until the year 2015. This paper also was the basic for the MDGs, which were adopted at the UN General assembly in September 2000. 147 heads of States gathered for this reason to show international solidarity (Attaran, 2005).

2.1 International acceptation of the MDGs

The MDGs introduced poverty reduction as the most important principle, which can already be seen in the first of the eight main goals. This was a major change compared to the former development goals, which were based on the introducing of free trade in order to strengthen the economy or on major projects to introduce new technologies. But also other important actors agreed to deal accordingly to the new strategies. Two of the first main actors who agreed internally to implement the MDGs were the European Council and the European Commission. In November 2000 a declaration was made that the fight against the poverty will be the leading principle in development politics. Since the countries in the European Communities now work in this policy area partly together, this was a step towards the acceptation of the MDGs (Maxwell and Engel, 2003). The member states each had to adjust the MDGs into their own development plans in order to reach those new goals. The British government was the first European parliament that declared their new strategy, while shortly after the German government followed with the “Aktionsplan 2015” (Strube-Edelmann, 2006). But not only those government who were interested in reducing poverty already before the official declaration of the Development Millennium Goals concentrated on poverty reduction, but also institutions such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

2.2 The content of the MDGs

As already mentioned one of the main goals of the MDGs is to reduce the most extreme forms of poverty. This is already mentioned in the first of eight goals, which consist of two sub-goals, namely to halve the number of people who live from under 1$ per day, and to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. Even though the first goal is the most directly involved with poverty reduction the other goals at least indirectly are also connected with the fight against poverty.

In the second goal this can be seen easily, since the main goal is to achieve an universal primary education. This will build up Human Capital on the long run, which is one of the main factors for the economic development of a country (Jacoby and Skoufias, 1994 p. 316).

The third goal is to make sure that the Human Capital of every citizen is used, as the rights of women are often discriminated in those countries. The women do most of the work in the developing countries, but most of the time they are not paid for their effort. Work around the house is very time consuming in most developing countries, especially in rural areas this becomes evident. Fetching wader, breading the animals or carrying for the children are extensive tasks that are traditionally fulfilled by the women (Summers, L, 1994, P. 1). Men, however who are still the heads of the households in most countries, are not this deeply involved in the work that has to be done around the house. They mostly look for formal employment, which is very difficult to achieve in the developing countries, due to the high rate of unemployment. Thus the goal is to strengthen equality and the rights of the women.

The next three goals are all concerned with improving the health situation in the countries. This does not seem to be connected with the fight against poverty on the first view, but it becomes obvious if a closer look in the societies will be taken. Especially with the immune disease HIV/Aids this becomes obvious. Since this disease is connected with sexual activity, young adults suffer mostly from this disease. This group normally would also be the most productive in the economy, and are supposed to lead a family. If this group suffers from this disease this has two effects that both lead to poverty. On the one hand the people who are infected are not able anymore to fulfil the tasks in the economy, which they would do without the disease. On the other hand this leads to a lot of young orphans, and especially in Africa households are often lead by children. Those children often have no other chance than working in a problematic environment in order to be able to survive. If the parents would be alive they would have the chance to go to school, and to develop the skills, which are needed in order to strengthen the economy later (Haacker, 2002 p. 18). Similar lines of argumentation can be found for the other diseases, even though the connection with HIV/Aids and poverty is the most obvious one.

The seventh MDG can be seen in two parts, as one part concentrates directly again on improving the situation for the poor people, while the other part of the goal gives an outline how to do it. To the first part of this MDG belongs the try to halve the number of people who live without access to safe drinking water and to reduce the number of people who live in slums by 100 million. The other part of the goal is to implement all the changes carefully and to protect the environment during this process. This strategy became known as “Sustainable Development” during the last years and has become one of the leading ideas ever since (Pearce and Warford, 1993). The eight MDG concentrates on the relationship between developing and developed countries, and shall establish a fair partnership between the countries, and is also divided into different sub goals[2]

In general it can be said that the MDGs set out the goal to improve the situation for the poor and marginalized population groups in the developing countries. This is clearly a change in strategy compared to the 1970s and 1980s, where it was believe that simple growth in the economy would also improve the situation for the poor.

3. The success of the MDGs

In the previous section the content of the MDGs was explained, and it was shown that the new strategy is aimed to improve the situation for the poorest people in the country. This section will show if the first years after the declaration where successful in this aspect, and if so in how far. Since a few years have passed, it can be analysed if the MDGs are likely to become achieved until 2015. It will be argued that in general a progress since the year 1990 can be seen, and that if those factors are taken into account it is possible that at least some of the MDGs possibly can be reached. This however is only if the global level get analysed and not the specific situation for each region. The situations for the developing countries are very different, and the last years have even deepened this development. Nonetheless in the next section the global numbers will be analysed, since the MDGs also do not differ between the world regions. The numbers, which will be discussed, are taken out of the UN Millennium Development Goal Report from the year 2007 and they compare the situation in the countries in 1990 and 2004.

3.1 The achieved results

The first MDG to halve the number of people who suffer from extreme poverty was started relatively successful. While 31,6% lived from under 1$ per day in 1990, the number reduced to 19,2% in 2004. In absolute numbers it does not look as successful, since the numbers only decreased from 1,25 billion to 980 million[3]. The most successful region was Eastern Asia where the number dropped from 33 to 9,9%. Another successful region was South East Asia where the number dropped from over 20% to 6,6%. This can be seen in close connection with the boom of the economies in Asia, to which scholars often refer to as the “Asian Miracle” (see for example Quibria, 2002). In other regions the numbers even dropped slightly with the exceptions of Western Asia and the Transition countries in South-Eastern Europe, who have to suffer the most from the collapse of the Soviet Union (Milanovic, 1998). In reducing hunger the countries have not been this successful, as the numbers only dropped from 33% to 27% in all regions combined. This means that in absolute numbers the decline is even smaller and that the MDGs cannot get reached in this field (United Nations, 2007). The worst situation in this field still exist in Southern Asia where still almost halve of the population suffers from hunger. In Eastern Asia the number reduced in relative numbers to a third compared to 1990, which can as described be connected with the growing economies.

The second goal to achieve universal education is also still far away from being achieved globally. While 80% of the children enrolled into primary school in 1990, the number has grown to 88% 14 years later, but it is still not the case that almost every child goes to primary school. The worst situation can be witnessed here in Sub-Sahara Africa, where only 70% of the children go to school, and even more are dropping out which reduces the number of children who reach the primary graduation level. Also Oceania with 78% and Western Asia with 86% are far away from reaching these goals. The other countries all have primary enrolment rate from above 90% and show an improvement over the course of the last years. Surprisingly however is the development in Eastern Asia, since in 1990 99% of all children enrolled into primary school, but this number dropped to 95% in 2004. Thus complete primary education was almost already reached in the end of the last century, but this is not the case anymore in the last years. Out of the ones who are not going to primary school most are girls or boys who live in rural areas. In rural areas the help of the children is needed around the house, since subsistence farming is still the main income source for a lot of families in this area (Buchmann and Brakewood, 2000, p 175). For those children this in return leads to worse future chances, and improves the possibility that the children follow their parents in subsistence farming.

The third goal to empower women is also slowly starting to improve, since women are now more integrated in the job market. But here progress depends even more on the region, and some regions that improved in other goals are not successful in this one. For example, only 20% of the women in Northern Africa hold a job, which is still exactly the same number than in 1990. Even in Sub-Sahara Africa, traditionally the worst region, the number is with 32% higher. It is surprising that in the former parts of the Soviet Union the number of working women is with 51% the highest in the world, even outscoring the industrialised countries with 47%. This goal seems to be the closet connected to the traditions and to the roles that women play in those societies. One of the reasons that can be seen here is religion, as especially Islamic women are less likely to be integrated into the labour market, even though other reasons are also important (Tzannatos, 1998).

The probability of a child surviving the fifth birthday has also become more likely during the last 15 years. While in 1990 106 children died before this age, in 2005 the number dropped to 83. In this category are big differences between the developing regions. In Sub-Sahara Africa 166 out of 1.000 children die, while in the second worst region in this category Southern Asia the rate is less than halve (82). In all regions the numbers have fallen, but the countries are still far away from the goal of reducing the child mortality by two/thirds. Mostly bad health situations combined with malnourishment are responsible for the still big number. Also diseases such as Malaria (which mostly leads to death by small children) or HIV, which is transmitted by the parents, are responsible for the early death of the children. Thus a connection with goal number four and the following goals can easily be seen.


[1] Especially the USA often gets critiqued on this aspect. The argumentation is that the government does not concentrate on improving the situation in the poorest countries, but instead tries to focus mostly on their own interest. Thus the relatively small amount, which the USA spends, on development aid goes into strategic important countries, who might help to improve the situation for the USA on the long run (Küblböck, 2006).

[2] All MDGs are seperated into the main goal and into several sub goals. The space here is too limited to discuss every sub goal in detail, but the whole wording can be found in the appendix.

[3] The growing of the population in most developing countries is responsible for the differences between the relative and absolute numbers. In most developing countries, and especially in Africa the population is rising extremely fast, and thus more people have to get integrated into the economy.

Excerpt out of 30 pages


Why Africa is unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?
University of Tubingen  (Politikwissenschaftliches Institut)
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Africa, Millennium, Development, Goals
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Daniel Schmidt (Author), 2008, Why Africa is unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/92145


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