Tokyo, 24 July 2014 —Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa need to intensify their battle against deprivation and prevent crises from setting back recent development advances, according to the global 2104 Human Development Report (HDR), launched here today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“Africa is enjoying higher levels of economic growth and well-being, but insecurity, as well as natural or human-induced disasters, persists in some parts of the region,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa. “Withstanding crises and protecting the most vulnerable, who are the most affected, are key to ensuring development progress is sustainable and inclusive.”
The 2014 HDR, entitled “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience,” shows that between 2000 and 2013, Sub-Saharan Africa had the second highest rate of progress in the Human Development Index (HDI), which combines achievements in income, health and education. Rwanda and Ethiopia achieved the fastest growth, followed by Angola, Burundi, Mali, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.
In spite of this progress, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most unequal region in the world, according to UNDP’s Coefficient on Human Inequality.
Around 585 million people, the equivalent of 72 percent of the region’s population, are either living in multidimensional poverty – with overlapping deprivations in education, health and living standards – or at risk of falling back into poverty, the Report shows. These groups often do not experience improvements in their standard of living because they have limited political participation, livelihood options and access to basic social services, and even when they do escape poverty, they can relapse rapidly into precariousness when crises hit.
These disparities affect individuals or even entire communities over a lifespan, based on gender, ethnicity, geographic location and other factors. For example, the Report shows that the region has the world’s highest disparities in health, and shows considerable gender inequalities in income, educational attainment and access to reproductive health services.
Noting that vulnerability can accumulate over the course of a lifetime, the Report asserts that policies to maximize people’s future opportunities should pay particular attention to specific periods in life. For instance, such policies would require investing in early childhood services, youth employment and support for older people.
The Report makes the case that preventing shocks and promoting opportunities for all—especially for those most at risk—can effectively help reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience.
“The eradication of poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’—it is also about staying there,” the Administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark, points out in the foreword, adding that the Report’s focus on resilience is highly relevant to current discussions on the post-2015 global development agenda.
Efforts to build social cohesion in conflict areas can lead to long-term reductions in the risk of conflict, while early warning systems and responsive institutions can lessen the impact of natural disasters. The report cites examples of peace architectures in Ghana, Kenya and Togo in facilitating dialogue and mediating disputes among communities during elections.
In addition, the Report argues that measures to create equal access to jobs, healthcare and education opportunities have an important role to play in promoting sustainable and equitable development.
With 77 percent of the population in vulnerable employment, many of them youths, the Report calls on countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to adopt full employment policies and ensure that economic growth is employment-intensive, while paying special attention to the quality and security of the jobs created. Creating decent employment opportunities is critical to achieving substantive poverty reduction and social cohesion.
Acknowledging these challenges, it urges countries to transition from agriculture-based economies into industry and services, while supporting investments in infrastructure and education so that “modern formal employment gradually incorporates most of the workforce.”
Further, social protection schemes such as unemployment insurance and pensions, universal health coverage and cash transfers can help individuals and communities weather difficult times and invest in the future.
For instance, South Africa’s Child Support Grant contributed to reducing the poverty rate among children, while in Mozambique, progressive laws have given poor communities increased access to land.
Responsive and accountable institutions of governance are critical to overcoming injustice, vulnerability and exclusion that can fuel social discontent, while improving the delivery of services to all populations, the Report adds. While responding to emergencies is critical, building resilience requires sustained, long-term comprehensive efforts over time.
Finally, the Report calls for better global coordination in shoring up resilience to vulnerabilities that are increasingly global in origin and impact.