EDITORIAL: A Millennium Growth Agenda for Africa

Image: Flickr, World Bank Photo Collection
Image: Flickr, World Bank Photo Collection

The nations of the world unanimously approved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which commit humanity to radically reducing poverty. But they never asked a most basic question: how will meeting the MDGs make the poor more economically competitive and self-reliant?

The aid industry has seized on Africa’s struggle to make progress on the MDGs as justification for massive new funding. But more of the same will not help. The MDGs will not help Africa for a simple reason: they focus on the wrong thing. The MDGs focus on alleviating the symptoms of poverty – but do nothing to solve Africa’s underlying problems that make it uncompetitive.

The continent will only reduce poverty in the long term through industries that make things the world wants to buy. Giving free primary education and healthcare are nice, but will never deliver what Africa needs to grow. In so doing, the MDGs are a destructive distraction. In focusing attention on aid volumes, they distract attention from the harder and more vital questions of why aid has not worked effectively thus far.

The nations in Asia and Latin America that have made the most progress in reducing poverty have not done so by following an aid-based MDG approach. Instead, they have spent two decades removing obstacles to business. They fixed infrastructure, simplified rules, entrenched clearer commercial laws and offered needed support services.

If directly chasing poverty alleviation goals won’t work, what would? To spark a wider debate, this issue of eAfrica puts forward an alternative agenda – a set of Millennium Growth Goals with special emphasis on measures that would boost business competitiveness and job creation in Africa. This issue examines the simplistic aid debate and dissects the difficulties facing microcredit – one of the recent darlings of the aid industry. And eAfrica talks to Bernard Kouassi, head of the African Peer Review Mechanism about progress and prospects for improving African governance.