Africa: Nations Lag Behind in Millennium Goals, Says UN Chief

Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi), April 22, 2008

None of the sub-Saharan African countries are on course in meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon said Monday.

“We face a development emergency,” Ban told a high-level segment of the twelfth UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), taking place in Accra, Ghana.

Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, “is most at risk ­ here, not a single country is on track to meet all of the MDGs by 2015,” he told the gathering of trade and development officials from around the world.

The eight MDGs, set by world leaders in September 2000, are: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal free primary education, gender equality and empowerment of women and reducing child mortality. The others are improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

Ban noted that well past the mid-point of the race to target date, many countries are lagging behind. At the same time, advances on specific goals in individual African countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Uganda suggest that rapid progress is certainly possible, he stated, adding that the successes in these countries need to be replicated and expanded across Africa with effective support from the international community.

Increased trade and investment, particularly in agriculture, are crucial if Africa is to achieve the kind of growth needed to meet the development targets, as well as to address the current global food crisis, which threatens to undo the gains made so far, the Secretary-General said.

He further pointed out that Africa has yet to fully benefit from globalization, especially increased trade and investment, noting that the continent’s share of global trade and foreign investment languishes at a mere three per cent.

Critical to spurring Africa’s growth is to ensure a breakthrough in the Doha Round of trade talks, as well as more South-South exchanges and greater foreign direct investment, he said.

Mr. Ban also drew attention to the “alarming” rise in global food prices, which he said threatens to undo the gains achieved so far in fighting hunger and malnutrition.

The Secretary-General’s visit to Ghana is the first stop on a four-nation tour of West Africa that will also take him to Liberia, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.

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