Thoughts On The Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s GOAL1)

While on the surface and based on the metrics of the MDG’s, Africa failed to meet targets, It is important to understand the root causes of these failures.

Historical context

gdp trends

Source: United nations economic commission for Africa(ECA), MDG 2014 report ; Assessing progress in Africa towards the millennium development goals.

Historically, Africa’s  per capita income levels began to diverge from the other regions after 1980. It is worth noting that this trend also coincided with the adoption of Structural Adjustment Programmes all over the continent. The Net effect on the continent due to the adoption of these policies must be addressed and resolved to make adequate headway in attaining Goal 1 of the MDG.

The SAP advocated curtailing the role of the state in economic activities and opening up Africa’s nascent economies to competition from more established economies. In doing this, The Structural Adjustment Programmes undermined the delivery of social services, contributed to low growth, de-industrialization and heightened dependence on primary commodities. In other words, It led to the massive devaluation of the national currency, collapse of governmental due process and credibility, huge disparities in income distribution, the destruction of the economy’s manufacturing base and decimation of the progressive middle classes.

This period of low growth was named the ‘the lost decade’ leading the Economist magazine to describe Africa as the “hopeless continent” in May 2000.

As at 2005, The verdict was in as to Africa and its MDG goals.

‘‘Sub-Saharan Africa, most dramatically, has been in a downward spiral of AIDS, resurgent Malaria, falling food output per person, deteriorating shelter conditions, and environmental degradation, so that most countries in the region are on a trajectory to miss most or all of the Goals .The region is off-track to meet every MDG.”(p. 2, 19 UN Millennium Project, Investing in Development, Main Report, 2005).

The main factors associated with Africa’s Initial conditions as well as its performance on the MDG goal1 are;

-Limited access to financing.

– A Lack of increased investments in economic and social infrastructure.

-Political instability


-Rural Urban Migration which is linked to a decline in food production.

Political instability and War’s in Africa are directly linked to arbitrary borders and groupings of people to facilitate extraction of primary outputs as well as maintain control and peace between the then colonial powers.

On average, between 1989 and 2002, the number of conflicts ranged between 10 and 15 per year. This has had adverse consequences for socio-economic and infrastructure development. During the 1994-2003 period, approximately 9.2 million people died from conflicts, and as of 2003, 15.6 million were internally displaced (United Nations, 2005).

This conflict and instability had the dual effect of not only reducing the amount of human resource (increased mortality and migration), It also heightened the risk perception of the continent closing it down to foreign direct investment and domestic private sector investments

Limited access to funds as well as poor levels of spending on infrastructure Is directly linked to corruption of leadership and more importantly illicit movement of funds.

Africa’s capacity to finance its development was also compromised by the massive illicit outflows of financial resources often instigated by Western firms with the complicity of African officials. The continent is estimated to have lost about $854 billion in illicit financial flows over the 39 year period (1970–2008), which corresponds to a yearly average of about $22 billion. This cumulative amount is considerably high compared to the external debt of the continent and is equivalent to nearly all the ODA received by Africa during that time frame (ECA, 2012a).  It is ironic that countries that sign up to elevating the world’s poor via MDG’s also facilitate the looting of the continent both by international organizations as well as local politicians by creating safe havens for illegally acquired wealth.

illicit finance flows

It is important to understand these initial starting points, and it is worth noting that metrics that take in to account the distance from starting points of African countries as opposed to distance from target, reveal that African countries are the top performers as regards achieving her MDG’s.

ECA data MDGS percentage change


Source: United nations economic commission for Africa(ECA), MDG 2014 report ; Assessing progress in Africa towards the millennium development goals.

Analyzing Africa’s performance as regards the MDG’s without taking in to consideration initial conditions as well as what specific policies were put in place to reverse those effects is an exercise In futility. Similarly, comparing Nigeria to Ghana, without understanding that corruption is like a cancer which only gets worse except surgically removed as we saw in Ghana during the time of JRRawlings and the impact that had on the now seemingly sane country as well as its ability to achieve said economic goals.

Hypocrisy and Propaganda.

The world cannot advocate for the poor of the world yet maintain and put in place policies that trap millions of Africa’s poor in poverty. Examples include the subsidy of American and European agriculture, This directly leads to the production of cheaper goods produced in the EU flooding African markets. This results in the destruction of its production base.

Consequently, the entrenchment of this trade injustice by the WTO forces African countries to increasingly export raw materials, which consistently continues to decline on the the global market relative to finished products further up the value chain.

Another example is seen in francophone Africa.

africa loosing out

Source; Honest Accounts?The true story of Africa’s billion dollar losses

March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said:

“Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power”

The Colonial Pact also imposes a “colonial debt” to be paid by the former colonies for “the infrastructure built by France in the countries during colonisation” and the automatic confiscation of national reserves.

Currently,14 african countries are obliged by France, through a colonial pact, to put 85% of their foreign reserve into France central bank under French minister of Finance control. As at 2014, Togo and about 13 other african countries still had to pay colonial debt to France. Coincidentally African leaders who refuse to keep the status quo are killed or victims of coup.

Currently, France has been holding the national reserves of fourteen african countries since 1961. These countries include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Under the terms of the agreement which set up these banks and the CFA the Central Bank of each African country is obliged to keep at least 65% of its foreign exchange reserves in an “operations account” held at the French Treasury, as well as another 20% to cover financial liabilities.

It’s now estimated that France is holding close to 500 billion dollars which belongs to its former African colonies in its treasury. What is worse is that these  African countries have limited access to these funds. France allows them to access only 15% of the money in any given year. If they need more than that, they have to borrow the extra money from their own 65% from the French Treasury at commercial rates.

France also placed in place a cap on the amount of money its former colonies can borrow from the reserve. The cap is fixed at 20% of their public revenue in the preceding year. If the countries need to borrow more than 20% of their own money, France has a veto.

It is with this knowledge that Former French President Jacques Chirac recently spoke about the African nations money in France banks.

“We have to be honest, and acknowledge that a big part of the money in our banks come precisely from the exploitation of the African continent.”

France has arrogated itself the first right to buy or reject any natural resources found in the land of the Francophone countries.

This means that if any of these countries were to get better offers elsewhere, they cannot sell to anyone else without the explicit approval of France.

The most recent and widely reported instance of this was when the former President of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo decided to give the Chinese a contract to build a bridge linking the central business district of Abijan to the rest of the city. The Chinese offered half the price quoted by French companies and as opposed to demanding payment in Euros, or US dollars, as the French demanded, but in cocoa beans which is one of Ivory Coast’s natural resources. France said no, and we all know what happened to Laurent Gbagbo shortly after.

The brutality against dissent is well documented. Giants, such as Sekou Toure of Guinea, who once told the French that: “We prefer freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery”, Sylvanus Olympio (Togo), Keita Modiba (Mali), Thomas Sankara, David Dacko (Central African Republic) and many others who dared to resist the French Colonial Pact were killed openly or clandestinely.

Out of the 67 coups that have taken place in 26 African countries in the last 50 years, 61% of the coups took place in former French colonies with full support of the government of France in order to safeguard the Colonial Pact.

As relates to France this is not new, even though Haiti is known synonymously with Poverty, Few consider the historical fact that France made Haiti to pay the modern equivalent of $21 billion from 1804 till 1947 (almost one century and half) for the losses caused to french slave traders by the abolition of slavery and the liberation of the Haitian slaves. This literally ran their entire economy in to the ground.

Haiti Doesn’t Need Aid – it Needs its $21 Billion ‘Independence Debt’ Returned from France” Noam Chomsky

Another Case study is Guinea which sits atop some of the most significant untapped mineral reserves in the world. Despite its abundant reserves of diamonds, gold, uranium, aluminium ore and bauxite,Its people live in squalor, without clean water, electricity, education or infrastructure.

For fifty years, Alcoa has managed one of the richest bauxite mines in the world situated in Guinea. Till date, the mine has generated over $400 billion in aluminum content. Guinea’s share of this $400 billion has been  is limited to a mere 1.2% or $4.8billion. To make matters worse despite signing and agreeing to honour a minning convention set in place to increase local Guinean participation in labor, subcontracting and transport.

Alcoa has persistently excluded local Guineans from the business opportunities offered by their own mine. Based on this Nanko a local shipping company is suing Alcoa.

This parasitic relationship has contributed to the nations poverty level leaving it without to funds to put in place infrastructure and social amenities required to be able to resist ravaging outbreaks as seen during  the ebola epidemic.

To move forward, Africa has to divorce itself from these prescribed development models advocated mainly by the west.

Policies must be put in place to block illicit flow of money as well as properly regulate the exploitation of our resources in a transparent process. The BVN policy would be extremely instrumental in this regard.

Our focus must shift from primary products to building value chains strategically placed to stem rural urban migration. We must work towards maximizing income from value chains, as this would be the only way to properly generate Jobs and income whilst reducing capital flight ( during the export of finished goods)

This is particularly apparent across industries where we export crude and import petrol; export raw timber and import wood, furniture; export cotton and import apparel, export raw cocoa, only to import it as chocolate. When the Value chain in Nigeria is lengthened and strengthened, more young people would go in to agriculture, this would directly impact both extreme poverty and hunger.

Africa needs to trade with itself and create regional integration. Barriers such as visa requirements and lack of sufficient and efficient trade routes by sea and air ensure that African countries stay poor and as opposed to looking inwards for help we perpetually look outwards.

Africa needs to create a regional approach to physical infrastructure. This regional approach would focus on strategic infrastructure projects such as highways and railways as well as smaller vessels that allow for the shipping of goods across the African coast.

The continent needs to also come together via scientific research to solve its own problems such as the Ebola situation along with malaria.

Africa for herself needs to define development in her own terms as well as define what she is willing to sacrifice to attain it as seen with China.















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