4. Development issues in sub-Saharan Africa

“Ensuring food security in Africa, given the impact of climate change and the financial crisis, may be one of the biggest challenges of this century”.

Report of the UN Secretary-General, 2009

“Actions will only bear fruit when Africa substitutes external conditionality — that is, doing what the donors tell us to do — with internal policy clarity — that is, knowing ourselves what we need to do and articulating this vision clearly to our development partners”.

Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, 2007


Meeting the special needs of Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region that most needs strong international development assistance. At the 2000 UN Millennium Summit, the world leaders pledged their support to the consolidation of democracy in Africa. In the Summit Declaration a special commitment was emphasized to assist Africans in their struggle for lasting peace, poverty eradication and sustainable development, thereby bringing Africa into the mainstream of the world economy.

The situation regarding economic development, education, human rights, gender equality, health, etc., varies greatly across the region:  

  • Nigeriahas the largest population (145 million); Seychelles has the smallest (0.1 million).
  • 43.3 percent of SSA’s population is under 14 years of age; Uganda has the highest share at this age range (49.3 percent) and Mauritius the lowest (24 percent).
  • Equatorial Guineahas the highest GDP per capita ($7,470); the Democratic Republic of Congo has the lowest ($91).
  • Nearly 40 percent of children under the age of five are underweight in Niger (39.9 percent; in Gabon the figure is 8.8 percent.
  • The highest numbers of clinical malaria cases reported between 1999 and 2001 were in Uganda (5.6 million); Ghana (3.4 million); Mozambique (3.2 million); and Malawi (2.9 million).
  • It takes 7 days to start a business in Madagascar and Mauritius, and 233 days in Guinea Bissau.
  • Burundihas the highest participation rate of women in the labour force (93.0 percent); Sudan has the lowest (24.1 percent).
  • Cape Verdehas the highest gross enrolment rate in secondary education (80 percent); Niger has the lowest (11 percent).
  • 92 percent of women in Seychelles were literate for the period 2000–06; this figure was 13 percent for Chad and 15 percent for Niger.
  • Skilled personnel attend 6 percent of births in Ethiopia; in Mauritius they attend 99 percent of births.
  • In Sierra Leone 2,000 women die for every 100,000 live births; in Mauritius 15 die per 100,000 live births.
  • Mauritiushas the highest life expectancy (73.2 years); Swaziland has the lowest (40.8 years).
  • In Madagascar, 30.6 percent of cropland is irrigated; in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda the figure is less than 0.1 percent. On average, only 4.7 percent of arable land is irrigated.
  • In Liberia, nearly almost no-one has internet access (0.03 per 100); over a third of people in Seychelles have access.
  • South Africahas 84 mobile phones per 100 people; Ethiopia has 1 per 100 people.
  • In Eritrea, 5 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities; in Mauritius, 94 percent has such access.

(Source: Africa Development Indicators (ADI) 2008 – World Bank)

The sub-Saharan African countries significantly lag behind other regions on all UN MDG indicators:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Achieve universal primary education
Promote gender equality and empower women
Reduce child mortality
Improve maternal health
Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases
Ensure environmental sustainability
Global partnership for development

Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most food-insecure region. Average calorie intake barely exceeds the daily requirement of 2 100 kcal, and is by far the lowest in the world. There is no adequate supply of food, and income inequality exacerbates the problem. Undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa continues to be on the rise and at the end of 2008 over 220 million people in this region were undernourished. The situation underlined a trend of an increase to 265 million undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009.    

It is also the only region in the world where the number of people living below the poverty line has been on the rise. High hunger levels in sub-Saharan Africa are due to high child mortality rates and a significant proportion of people who lack sufficient calories. Low government effectiveness, conflict, political instability, and high rates of HIV/AIDS are also among the factors that contribute to high hunger levels. 

Over half the workers (57 percent in 2008) earn less than $1 a day. Vulnerable employment (workers without formal work arrangements and lacking decent working conditions, inadequate social security and earnings) is also highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where it accounts for three quarters of all jobs.   

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of slums. In 2005, the percentage of urban population in sub-Saharan Africa living in slums was as high as 62.2. Slum conditions are defined as lacking at least one of four basic amenities: clean water, improved sanitation, durable housing and adequate living space. Both slums and urban areas in the region appear to be growing at an equally rapid pace, and the living conditions among impoverished populations are severe, often involving multiple deprivations.

(Sources: The state of food insecurity in the world”, 2009, The Food and Agriculture Organization; “2009 Global Hunger Index”, International Food Policy Research Institute;The Millennium Development Goals Report”, 2008, UN; “The Millennium Development Goals Report”, 2009, UN).

Achieve universal primary education

In sub-Saharan Africa the net enrolment ratio has only recently reached 71 percent, even after a significant jump in enrolment that began in 2000. Around 38 million children of primary school age are still out of school. 54 percent attend secondary school. In addition, substantially more children of secondary school age attend primary rather than secondary school.  

The adult literacy rate in Africa is 67 percent, with women having a higher illiteracy rate compared to men. There is considerable variation between literacy rates, with Zimbabwe having 90 percent adult literacy and Burkina Faso 12.8 percent. 

2005 UNICEF study of primary school attendance in 18 African countries showed 73 percent of children of educated mothers attending compared with 51 percent of children of uneducated mothers.

(Sources: The Millennium Development Goals Report”, 2008, UN;Africa environment outlook”, 2005, UNDP; “The State of the world’s children”, 2010, UNICEF).

Promote gender equality and empower women

In 2005, less than one-quarter of countries in sub-Saharan Africa met the MDG target for gender parity in primary and secondary school enrolment rates. Reducing gender gaps in both schooling and control of agricultural resources could have the potential to increase agricultural productivity by 10–20 percent. Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia have the largest gender gaps in primary enrolment.   

In sub-Saharan Africa, the enrolment for tertiary education, calculated by UNESCO, for men is 6.8 percent, which is 1.5 times higher than that for women (4.5 percent). For every 100 male students enrolled in 2007, there are only 66 female students. The percentage of the population aged 15–24 years who can both read and write also shows a considerable difference between men (71,1 percent) and women (53,8 percent).

Domestic violence is common, particularly in polygamous families, and affects one-fifth of couples. In Nigeria, for example, women’s physical integrity is not sufficiently protected. Only one Nigerian state has a law in place to address violence against women, and the country’s Penal Code grants husbands permission to beat their wives, provided the violence does not result in serious injury. According to a 2003 demographic and health survey, 64.5 percent of Nigerian women consider it normal to be beaten by their husbands – even for infractions as minor as burning a meal or failing to have dinner ready on time. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is prohibited in several Nigerian states, but such laws are difficult to enforce. On a national scale, FGM is widely practised: one-fifth of women aged between 15-49 years have been subjected to it. The incidence of FGM differs considerably by region, and is twice as common in rural communities as in urban areas.

Also in Sudan women have a very low level of legal protection in relation to family matters. In accordance with the Islamic Sharia law, polygamy is legal as is repudiation. Divorce proceedings discriminate against women. They have the right to file for divorce but have a much more difficult time obtaining one. Women almost never exercise this right because initiating divorce is considered a dreadful disgrace for their families. By law, parental authority is granted solely to fathers. In the event of divorce, young children usually remain with their mothers, but custody automatically reverts to fathers when sons reach the age of 6 years and daughters reach 8 years.

Women have virtually no legal right to ownership. They are restricted from having access to land, even in the form of tenancy. The government recently reduced women’s freedom of movement even further by mandating that women and men must form two queues while waiting at public offices. On public buses, women must stand separately in the back. Public opinion generally condemns mothers who leave their children at home in order to work outside the home. Female genital mutilation is widespread in Sudan (about 90 percent of female have undergone FGM in its most severe form).    

More in-depth on Gender Equality and Social Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa by Country Profiles is provided by the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index.     

(Sources: The Global Gender Gap Report”, 2009, World Economic Forum; “The Millennium Development Goals Report”, 2008, UN; “Global Education Digest 2009”, UNESCO Institute for Statistics; “The Millennium Development Goals Report Indicators”, 2009, UN; “Gender Equality and Social Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa”, 2009, OECD).

Reduce child mortality

Every year about 10 million children in the world die before their fifth birthday, with many of these deaths occurring in Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, it is estimated that there were almost 5 mil child deaths in 2002.

Everyday, over 12,000 children aged 0-5 years die from preventable or treatable causes. About one quarter of these deaths occur in the first month of life, over two thirds in the first seven days. The majority of under-five deaths are due to a small number of common, preventable and treatable conditions such as infections, malnutrition and neonatal conditions.

Newborns remain the forgotten children of Africa, with their deaths considered as “normal”. Adolescents continue to be victims of HIV, substance abuse, and unprotected sex resulting in teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortion, sexually transmitted diseases and death. It is estimated that 11.6 million children under the age of 18 have been orphaned as a result of AIDS.  The African region needs to increase its average annual mortality reduction rate to 8.2 percent per annum if MDG 4 is to be achieved by 2015.

Children from poorer households are also much more likely to be engaged in child labour. Children in conflict-affected countries may face increased risks of being exploited, exposure to violence or being recruited by armed groups. When civil strife and extreme poverty coincide, as they do in conflict-affected countries of West and Central Africa such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, children are susceptible to a much higher risk of child protection violations. Further information can be found in “The State of the world’s children. Downloadable statistical tables” (2009, UNICEF).  

(Sources: Child survival: A strategy for the African region”, 2007, World Health Organization; “Africa’s development needs: state of implementation of various commitments, challenges and the way forward”, 2009, Report of the UN Secretary General; “The Millennium Development Goals Report”, 2008, UN; “The State of the world’s children”, 2010, UNICEF).

Improve maternal health

99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Half of these occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where the highest maternal mortality ratio is registered (920 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). The countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios are Sierra Leone (2,100 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) and Niger (1,800), while Chad (1,500), Somalia (1,400), Angola (1,400), Rwanda (1,300), and Liberia (1,200) follow closely the worrying trend. In 2007 the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel in sub-Saharan African was 44 percent, a minimal increase from 1990 when it was 42 percent. The Millennium Development Goals Report Indicators.  

(Sources: The Global Gender Gap Report”, 2009, World Economic Forum; “Progress for Children: A Report Card on Maternal Mortality”, 2008,  UNICEF”; “The Millennium Development Goals Report Indicators”, 2009, UN).

Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region most heavily affected by HIV, with southern Africa remaining the area most heavily affected by it. In 2008, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 67 percent of HIV infections worldwide, 68 percent of new HIV infections among adults and 91 percent of new HIV infections among children. The region also accounted for 72 percent of the world’s AIDS-related deaths in 2008. 75 percent of all HIV infections are young women aged 15 to 24. As of 2007, an estimated 47.5 million children in sub-Saharan Africa had lost one or both parents to AIDS or other causes.

According to WHO, nearly a million people died of malaria in 2006, 95 percent of them lived in sub-Saharan Africa, and the vast majority was children under five. Between 190 million and 330 million episodes of malaria occurred that year, with 88 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. The risk of dying from malaria is considerably higher in sub-Saharan Africa than other parts of the world for several reasons: transmission of the disease is more intense, the more lethal form of the malaria parasite — Plasmodium falciparum — is more abundant, and the region tends to have weak health systems.

(Sources: ChildInfo. Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women”, UNICEF based on UNAIDS and WHO, AIDS Epidemic Update, 2009; The Global Gender Gap Report”, 2009, World Economic Forum; “The Millennium Development Goals Report”, 2009, UN)

Ensure environmental sustainability

By 2020, the urban population of Africa is expected to be 646 million, in 2000 it was 302 million (FAO 2003). While insufficient data exists to accurately ascertain the magnitude of urbanization, available statistics indicate a current rate of urbanization in Africa of around 3.5 percent per year (UNCHS 2001). By 2030, the proportion of Africa’s urbanized population is expected to reach 53.5 percent, compared to 39 percent in 2005. This fast rate of urbanization places strain on infrastructure and other services.

This calls for integrated approaches to environmental planning and management. In the absence of alternative livelihood opportunities and strategic management of the environment, the rapid population growth and urbanization has resulted in environmental degradation and resource depletion. Between 1990 and 2000, Africa lost 52 million hectares of forests: amounting to a decrease of 0.8 percent per year and 56 percent of the global total (FAO 2003). It is estimated that 60 percent of the tropical forest areas cleared in Africa as a whole between 1990 and 2000 were converted to permanent agricultural smallholdings.

Although Africa has some of the lowest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, it carries the greatest burden of climate sensitive diseases. Environmental degradation can affect access to education as children will spend more time collecting firewood and fetching water instead of attending school. In Malawi, where more than 90 percent of households use firewood as their main source of energy, children in fuel wood-scarce districts are 10 to 15 percent less likely to attend secondary school.

Almost 50 percent of the developing world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.Sanitation coverage is lowest in South Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of people do not have access to improved sanitation. For water, coverage remains below 60 percent of the population in both sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

In countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda, 4 out of 5 children either use surface water or have to walk more than 15 minutes to find a protected water source. Unclean water spreads diseases such as cholera and infant diarrhoea, which kill 5 million people per year, mainly children. More than half of Africans suffer from such water-related diseases. 400 million school-aged children a year are infected by intestinal worms that sap their cognitive abilities. Sick, pregnant and post-partum women are most likely to suffer from lack of sanitation and to pass disease on to their children.

(Sources: Africa environment outlook”, 2005, UNDP; “Ensure environmental sustainability”, UNICEF).

Global partnership for development

Net disbursements of official development assistance (ODA) in 2008 increased 10.2 percent to $119.8 billion, the highest dollar figure ever recorded. That is equivalent to 0.30 percent of developed countries’ combined national income. Expenditures on bilateral aid programmes and projects have been on the rise in recent years and increased to 12.5 percent in real terms between 2007 and 2008.

However, total aid remains well below the UN target of 0.7 percent of gross national income. In 2008, the only countries to reach or exceed the UN target were Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. For the 15 EU member states of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the combined net ODA rose by 8.6 percent in real terms from 2007 to 2008, reaching $70.2 billion. This represents 59 percent of all DAC ODA. As a share of gross national income, net ODA from DAC-EU members rose to 0.42 percent.

At the Gleneagles summit in 2005, G-8 members projected that their commitments would double the ODA to Africa by 2010. Preliminary data for 2008 show that, excluding debt relief, bilateral ODA to the continent as a whole rose by 10.6 percent in real terms from the previous year; the corresponding increase for sub-Saharan Africa was 10 percent. Despite this progress, donors will need to rapidly increase their aid to Africa if they are to fulfil their 2005 pledges.

Africaproduces around 7 percent of the world’s commercial energy, but consumes just 3 percent. At the same time, Africa has the world’s lowest rate of access to modern energy. About 500 million Africans do not have access to electricity and use wood for cooking and heating. At current population growth rates, more than 60 percent of sub-Saharan Africans would still be without electricity in 2020. The investment needed to meet Africa’s energy challenges is huge. According to the World Bank, ensuring 100 percent access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa alone by 2030 would require an annual investment of €8.27 billion.

The number of internet users in Sub-Saharan Africa rose from 1 user per 100 people in 2000 to only 4 per 100 people in 2007. Providing Internet connectivity and minimizing the digital divide to the developing world will help realise goals for health, education, employment and poverty reduction.     

(Sources:Addressing the energy challenges of the 21st century together. The Africa-EU Energy Partnership”, EU; The Millennium Development Goals Report”, 2009, UN).

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