Africa Can Make Significant Progress Towards the MDGs

Monday, December 5, 2011

Most African countries may not achieve all the MDG targets by 2015. What matters more is that they all make significant progress in all areas of the MDGs and sustain, or even accelerate, this progress in accordance with their national conditions.

Arguably, the political and economic conditions in Africa in 2011 are a lot better than they were in 2000 (the year of the Millennium Declaration), or even 1990, the base year of the MDGs. With exceptions, economies are a lot more robust, many more countries are ruled by electoral democracies, and the quality of elections is getting better. Civil society is maturing and more complex, buoyed by a growing youthful, educated and eager middle class armed with new organising and communications tools. There are massive opportunities for both political and social progress.

One such opportunity lies in fostering true democratic accountability, in which those entrusted with power are held to account in the form of the delivery of tangible benefits, especially basic services, through the effective use of tax revenues collected equitably and efficiently from those who entrust them with the power – the citizens. Parliaments and parliamentarians are crucial to ensuring that this trust is upheld as they intercede between the executive and the people.

This accountability is sustained only when those entrusting power maintain an active interaction at multiple levels with those they elect. The quality of the interaction between the elected representatives and organised citizenry largely determines the quality of democracy and its impact on the material conditions of the people. It goes without saying that the achievement of the MDGs in Africa will be more than guaranteed when we successfully catalyse and channel active citizen-state interaction and civil society-parliament engagement generally.

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