Attend Spring Meetings on Development topics from Apr 17-21. Comment and engage with experts. Calendar of Events

Syndicate content

The MDGs at Eight

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Launched in 2000 in the Millennium Declaration, the Millennium Development Goals were a global compact to reduce poverty.  As world leaders meet at the United Nations this week to take stock of progress, Paul Collier’s Op-Ed in yesterday’s New York Times and a paper by a team led by François Bourguignon bring at least two aspects into sharp focus.  First, although designed to apply to the whole world, the MDGs are increasingly about Africa, the region that is most seriously off-track in reaching the 2015 goals [see graph].  It reminds me of a statement by a senior European official who was a signatory to the original Millennium Declaration:  “I thought I was signing something about African countries.”  

Secondly, both Paul’s and François’ pieces make the point that accelerating progress towards the MDGs is about a lot more than just the money that was promised (although they also emphasize that donor countries should live up to the pledges they made at Gleneagles to double aid to Africa).  The point is worth emphasizing because too much of the discussion about the MDGs has focused on the amount of foreign aid that it will take to reach them.  As a co-author of one of the earliest estimates of the costs of reaching the MDGs, I may have contributed to this distortion, a point that has not escaped Bill Easterly or Michael  Clemens, Charles Kenny and Todd Moss. But the point we made in that original paper still stands:  Estimates of the costs of reaching the MDGs should not be interpreted as “if you receive this amount of aid, you will reach the MDGs,” but rather as, “If you reach the MDGs, this is what it would have cost.”


As founder of the Chede village cooperative movement in Cameroon and of the Chede international development network which aims to promote village-sensitive development approaches in African countries, I would very much like to share the experiences of other development actors on the subject heading.

The rationale for our focus on the subject is succinctly presented (like a first firing shot) on our website: (now being reconstructed and updated) on the home page under the title "Village-centric development strategies for Africa".

Our humble but unswerving belief is that Africa's development architects need to revisit past and present development strategies from the perspective of what the village can offer, the village being the natural, self-contained unit (political, judicial, cultural, economic, religious, etc) of African society since time immemorial.

We also believe that by shifting our focus to the village level, we would be in a better position to find practical solutions to some major trends that threaten our development prospects, especially the continuing hikes in food prices and dangerous weather patterns.

For example, only in the village sector can more food be produced by the farmers. But that cannot be achieved if the able-bodied villagers must leave the village heartland en masse for the cities and abroad, as they now do, for lack of village-sensitive public policies.

Moreover, the ever-increasing need for Africans to ensure more effective and comprehensive husbandry of their environmental resources and landscape in order to counter and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change phenomena requires bottom-up practical solutions best mounted at the level of village communities.

We hope this first posting can spark a series of other comments that would enable us to enrich the debate.

signature: "We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit" Aristotle. AFRICA YOUTH EMPOWERMENT SCHEME welcomes you to her 1st International Youth Conference coming up in Owerri the Capital of Imo State Nigeria. This International Youth Conference which is going to draw over 2,000 young delegates in various African communities with five representatives each from the Nigerian states will feature a short Interactive Forum, Stimulation exercise, Exhibition, Recognition of Sponsors & Partners alongside a Magazine Lunch, Project Lunch and an Official Website Lunch. We will also, use this medium to advertise the product and services of our sponsors/partners. We believe strongly that your contribution will add hope to the helpless, strength to the weak, life to the dying youth who is affected with poverty, sickness, death, robbery, drug abuse, prostitution etc. A life you save today can be your Hope for tomorrow, Join hands with us today to save life, for we believe a yes can change the world.

Submitted by Maishinski on
Yet another prescriptive approach to Africa. Has anyone thought of asking Africans what they think the solution should be?
We know why Africa is poor. We don't need "Africa Experts" from the West to tell us.
Poverty in Africa is fuelled by:
1. Conflict & Inteference: This is the main cause of poverty! We know today that only "pro-western" governments are "democratic". We also know that oil producing countries are "exempted" from prescriptive one-size-fits-all western democracy.
If developed countries stop funding, promoting or fueling conflict and destruction in Africa (through alleged covert "regime change" operations to install friendly puppet governments), a most of poverty issues would be instantly resolved!
Example: EU election observers made unsubstantiated and irresponsible assertions in the media - that significantly fuelled post-election violence and resulted in the death of over 1,000 innocent kenyans. Other wester countries echoed EU's indictments. No one asked "where is the proof"!
To date none of the "credible evidence" has been tabled. Now Kenya economy has slowed down, poverty levels have risen sharply and inflation is at an all time high. Now you want to tell us about poverty reduction and "MDG" - yet you are responsible for making more than 1Million people poorer.
2. Economic strangulation: Unemployment is just a symptom of economic woes. More than 80% of Aid money goes back to the developed world (even the so called "Africa experts" are foreigners!) to pay for equipment and administration. Aid is more of a political weapon to ensure continued dependency on donor countries. A simple thing like academic exchange programmes where professors from developed worlds come and lecture locally (e.g. for 2-3 years) - and local professors go abroad in their places can have longer term impact than mere handouts.
3. Hypocrisy: What is this "MDG"? Since when did "one shoe" fit "all sizes"? The so called "World leaders" need to stop these shenanigans. Go to streets in Africa and ask people what they know about MDG.
4. all talk, No action: Whats the MDG action plan? Are there specific deliverables? Milestones? tailored to individual countries unique scenarios?
5. Propaganda against Africa: The western governments should stop promoting negative stereotyping of Africa. There are also good things in Africa (cultural, economic, social etc). Currently the west is busy trying to rewrite history - to cover up for the mess they created by dividing Africa in the first place.
C'mon guys, surely by now you would know that we can see right through to your true intentions?

Submitted by joe on
What does the world economic crisis mean for Africa.Should the western/US economic system collapse, what role will the world bank have in Africa

Submitted by Andrew Ngugi on
The bar graph with the green amber and red. Not sure how to interpret the information it has.

Submitted by pelu on
I was pleased to read about this new blog in a national daily in Nigeria. Apart from the fact that I am always looking for news that speak of the potential of Africa for greatness, I feel this is one blog Africans need at this time to interact,unite and scale our hurdles together. I attended a health conference early this month in Abuja (Nigeria), where the focus was on the several initiatives being taken (locally and globally) to wipe out Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS out of Africa. In a one-on-one I had with a NEPAD Advisor, he suggested that governements in Africa need to woo back medical professionals from overseas with better incentives. More crucial, he added, is for them to scale up on taking preventive treatments to the rural communities in order to reduce the strain on the largely run-down health infrastructure in the urban centres. I was elated to find that there are a good number of indigenous Community-based Organisations (CBOs) doing just that.But the numbers need to increase to achieve a large-scale turn around in the health conditions of the rural poor.

No doubt that Africa's economy is very dependent on Europe and USA. When there is an financial crisis throughout the world, this have very big influence on Africa. I expect that growth in Africa will decline again as a result of the global recession.

Add new comment