By Robert Kasenene
2015 is an important milestone for the international development arena. It will be the expiration date for perhaps one of the most ambitious global projects ever laid out at such a scale. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been critical in setting out what in my view is the momentum to address the empirical and common challenges developing parts of the world are facing. But whilst these challenges are common – from health, education, poverty, gender disparities, diseases and much more – solution for the global populace can never be a “one-size for-all” approach. As the world concludes the review of its standing and planning going ahead, Africa must get it right this time. The continent must make sure that it clearly and contextually identifies with the new framework it subscribes to.
The development world got it right in leading the process to develop a framework with which to dispense financing from the rich economies they built. In the year 2000, after what I think would have been extensive studies and analysis, leaders from 189 States party to the United Nations adopted the MDGs. The stage of a decade and a half full of North South sympathies, financial and human resource flows in the quest to rid the challenges plaguing the developing world was set. And looking at the operating framework behind the MDGs, one was confronted with detailed description of what the challenges were and how the world would know if was achieving at all levels.
The language of the MDGs and indicators to measure progress, which in-turn informed national level development planning, is at the core of the problem I think Africa should address on this occasion. As a function of practicality in a world of inequalities as there are today, a static framework such as the MDGs has a lot of limitations for a place such as Africa. Looking at where respective countries were, and indeed where the continent as a whole was in the year 2000, instructing national development machineries to implement and aspire to achieve the MDGs in their entirety was in no way practical. Not at the least in 15 years. It certainly did not take European regional integration that little a time to produce the kind of results as expected in the MDGs. It did and has not taken that little a time for fast growing economies such as those of the Asian Tigers to produce such results.
Whilst the logic of the MDGs may compute from a compassionate perspective, a realistic examination says otherwise for Africa in my view. Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality and empowering women and improving maternal health for example demonstrate my assertion quite vividly.
Even without the kind of intrusion that developed economies have done to developing economies today, Africa committing to “eradicating extreme poverty and hunger” in 15 years was a stretch in many respects. Not less than 10 economies were recovering from decades of conflict and others were still experiencing recurring episodes. Many nations were still nursing significant international debt and were relying on Northern economies for important commodities. Starting with such a slate hardly prepares anyone for success and when examined today, poverty levels in many corners of the continent are barely decreasing. In-fact they remain significantly widespread with increasing population levels and are perpetuated by drivers that were not even factored in when the MDGs went operational.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment is perhaps one of the most novel causes amplified by the MDGs. The global movement on these issues certainly did not start in the year 2000. Gender issues have significant resonance in cultures worldwide and no less in Africa. Addressing any apparent gaps requires an important examination of the context in the interventions proposed. And Africa hasting its efforts to meet expected results only means such context is not given adequate exposure to craft the right kind of solutions that would be sustainable. Even the developed world itself is still struggling today on gender equality issues and it is worth noting that on women’s development issues; efforts go as far back as 1975 at the 1st World Women’s Conference.
And on maternal health, like the other MDGs focusing on health issues, Africa has been expected to make a significant leap to achieve the results set out in the goals. Including health development aspirations such as ‘universal access’, the myriad of challenges that faced the African continent back then and to date are still significant. The investments are not just needed at the service delivery level to mitigate maternal health challenges. They go much further to include shoring up a human-resource-for-health cohort that is still disproportionate to the populace across the continent, improving infrastructure, service delivery points, safe health commodities, management, utilities and much more.
Hence the premise for the argument being made here is that Africa cannot expect to be held at the same standard as the developed world. That is not meaning to say the continent is any lesser than any other part of the world. Rather, it is reaffirm a statement made earlier, that whatever development framework the continent subscribes to post 2015 must be one that it identifies with. It must be one that on-top of everything else; the attributes set forth and expected results are attentive to the operating context that the African continent, among other developing regions of the world, will be working under to deliver results. The custodian of those results will be Africa and so Africa must get it right.
By Robert Kasenene
Robert Kasenene is the Managing Director of CoDe Services, a consulting firm providing services in organizational management, development communication and social media integration. He also Heads the Editorial Team for Connect African Development Blog. Visit the Blog HERE (http://www.connectafricandevelopment.org) for more information.