New UN goals: MDGs vs SDGs – What it means for Africa

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals aimed at international development, established in 2000, aimed at eradicating poverty, whilst improving education, gender equality, healthcare and the environment.

The Millennium Forum, together with representatives of over 1 000 non-governmental and civil society organizations from over 100 countries, concluded a two-year consultation process covering issues such as poverty eradication, environmental protection, human rights and overall protection of the vulnerable.

All United Nations member states signed a declaration (United Nations Millennium Declaration) which stated their commitment to achieving these development goals by year-end 2015. With the deadline looming, it is worthwhile to take note as to whether the goals implemented were achieved or not; and if not, how close it came to achievement.

8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Below is a list of each of the MDG’s as well as a link a detailed description of each of the goals and what it aims to achieve.

  1. Goal 1: To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Goal 2:To achieve universal primary education
  3. Goal 3: To promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Goal 4: To reduce child mortality
  5. Goal 5:To improve maternal health
  6. Goal 6: To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Goal 7: To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Goal 8: To develop a global partnership for development

The 8 goals mentioned above form quite a diverse pool of issues of development which are seriously lacking not only globally but especially in Africa. For Africa however, it has emerged that the there is a global contextual misunderstanding around the relevance of the MDGs for the African context.


MDG Goals: Attainment of these goals in Africa!

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) has presented a report which found that Latin America and most Asian countries have reached or are close to reaching their goals but found that Sub-Sahara Africa is the furthest from achieving its goals, despite showing a growth rate of 2% above global average economic growth since 2000.

  1. Education: South Africa has made significant strides in primary education and gender equality. There are 54 million more children attending primary school, and more girls attend both primary and secondary school. However, a disappointing 30 million children are still not in school. More than half of them are girls.
  2. Gender Equality in the workplace: The report further stated that more women are in positions of power across Africa, (With the first female heads of state in Liberia and Malawi, and countries such as South Africa and Rwanda measure up favourably against recognised democracies for the number of women in parliament)since the implementation of MDGs.
  3. Poverty: Overall, poverty rates have declined across Africa but this has been argued to be caused by the rapid economic growth being experienced and not the MDGs.
  4. Employment: The employment rate has been shown to experience positive growth in Africa however, it seems that the quality of the jobs being offered is not favourable, with a large percentage employed inconsistently or in “vulnerable jobs”.
  5. Income Inequality: A disputed area of measure in African economies is income inequality. While Uneca insists this has declined, many analysts dispute this given the rebasing of a few key economies in Africa, which has resulted in larger than expected gross domestic products and, with that, a wider gap between the rich and poor.

The general consensus is that Africa has come a long way since 2000 however, the socioeconomic improvement since 2000 is more the result of the following increased investment, than the implementation of MDGs:

  1. Key structural changes that have enabled a more open and connected Africa
  2. A better business environment granting access to the vast potential the continent has to offer and the key imperative: economic growth.

This is especially since African policy makers had very little to do with the first iteration of UN goals for development, back in 2000.

Given the mixed record of the MDGs, and especially their lack of contextual understanding and relevance in African countries, the emergence of the SDGs raises the question: “What do the new goals mean for Africa and will they be any different from the MDGs?” This is important given the shifting global political and economic landscape since 2000.

What happens after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015?

In order to improve any gaps in the 8 MDG goals that have been implemented over the last 15 years, 17 new goals – Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) will be implemented in its place. Similar to the aims of the MDGs the aim of the new goals will be to shape global development as well as frame the political and economic policies of developing countries, and it is to be implemented over the next 15 years (expiring at the end of 2030).

With the implementation of the SDGs many believe that given that there will be greater input from the African leaders now than with the MDGs, there may be a greater chance of Africa actually achieving their goals (or coming close to achieving them). With Africans becoming more aware of the continent’s development needs and the prevalence of “African solutions for Africa’s problems”, not to mention, the foreign investment interest in the continent, achieving the goals seem more likely in the next round.

To read more on this topic, please visit the websites below, which was used to publish this article:

  1. BD Live
  2. UN Org
  3. UN Org Article
  4. UN: Sustainable Development


,Fowzia Gamiet

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