Africa is a rich continent. Some of those riches – especially oil, gas and minerals – have driven rapid economic growth over the past decade. The ultimate measure of progress, however, is the wellbeing of people – and Africa’s recent growth has not done nearly as much as it should to reduce poverty and hunger, or improve health and education. To sustain growth that improves the lives of all Africans, the continent needs an economic transformation that taps into Africa’s other riches: its fertile land, its extensive fisheries and forests, and the energy and ingenuity of its people. The Africa Progress Report 2014 describes what such a transformation would look like, and how Africa can get there. Agriculture must be at the heart that transformation. Most Africans, including the vast majority of Africa’s poor, continue to live and work in rural areas, principally as smallholder farmers. In the absence of a flourishing agricultural sector, the majority of Africans will be cut adrift from the rising tide of prosperity. To achieve such a transformation, Africa will need to overcome three major obstacles: a lack of access to formal financial services, the weakness of the continent’s infrastructure and the lack of funds for public investment.
The Africa Progress Report 2014 describes how African governments and their international partners can cooperate to remove those obstacles – and enable all Africans to benefit from their continent’s extraordinary wealth.
Equity in Health
According to this report, steady economic growth and improvements in poverty reduction on the continent are reported to have had a positive impact on MDG progress, with sustained progress toward several MDGs. Africa is on track to achieve the targets of: universal primary education; gender parity at all levels of education; lower HIV/AIDS prevalence among 15-24 year olds; increased proportion of the population with access to antiretroviral drugs; and increased proportion of seats held by women in national parliament by 2015. However, the report acknowledges that more needs to be done to address inequalities, including between women and men. It highlights the need to address the sub-standard quality and unequal distribution of social services between rural and urban areas. It suggests active steps to ensure that economic growth translates into new and adequate employment opportunities for Africa’s youthful and rapidly growing population, and supports social protection systems. The report urges policymakers to put greater emphasis on improving the quality of social services and ensuring that investments yield improved outcomes for the poor for MDG progress.
More than 28 million Africans are now living with HIV/AIDS and in some countries over 30 percent of the adult population is infected, a UNAIDS statement has warned. "The devastating impact of HIV/AIDS is rolling back decades of development progress in Africa," said Peter Piot, UNAIDS executive director. "Every element of African society - from teachers to soldiers to farmers - is under attack by AIDS," he added.
After two years of wrangling and delays, World Trade Organisation (WTO) members last week finally agreed on a deal that eases access to generic drugs for developing countries. It will enable poorer countries to import generic versions of patented medicines from countries producing the cheaper drugs, such as India or Brazil, without violating patent rules. Yet AIDS activists have called the agreement "flawed", as it still does not provide a "workable solution".
For many African countries the worst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still to come, according to a new UN report. "In the absence of massively expanded prevention, treatment and care efforts, the AIDS death toll on the continent is expected to continue rising before peaking around the end of this decade," the UNAIDS/World Health Organisation AIDS Epidemic Update 2002 said.
The debate over access to affordable drugs has dominated the 12th International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA), with participants at the Ouagadougou meeting calling on rich countries to provide the South with the funds to buy life-prolonging antiretrovirals.
The Global AIDS and Health Fund - an initiative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, would become operational by the end of this year, a UN statement said on Wednesday. The fund would be responsible for mobilising and managing funds in the battle against HIV/AIDS, the UN said.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced its first round of grants to country programmes to prevent and treat the three diseases on Thursday.
In mid-December, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released its annual World Health Report, the first under the leadership of Director-General Jong-wook Lee. Building on its earlier announcement of a plan to bring AIDS treatment to 3 million people by the end of 2005 (http://www.africafocus.org/docs03/who0312.php), the WHO called for a return to the goal of "Health for All" adopted twenty-five years ago. The report calls for strengthening health systems across the board to address the widening gap between rich and poor countries, and it stresses that AIDS treatment will not be sustainable unless it is linked to the strengthening of primary health systems. The report thus presents a sharp contrast to the U.S. model of commercialized health care and the bilateral approach stressed by President Bush's new AIDS initiative. U.S. officials have used the weaknesses of national health care systems in African and other developing countries as an argument for a slower pace in funding for AIDS programs. The WHO reverses that argument, stressing the need for immediate steps to build additional health care capacity. This posting from the AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from the WHO's World Health Report, as well as links to additional recent reports from late 2003.
The life expectancy of Africans is set to reach one of its lowest levels ever, it was revealed on Monday. By the year 2005, most Africans will die before they reach their 48th birthday, the fourth general assembly of the African Population Commission (APC) heard.