How did African countries fare with the Millennium Development Goals?


In September 2000, at the Millennium Summit which was the 55th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the Millennium Development Goals were adopted by 149 Heads of State and Government and high ranking officials from over 40 other countries. The MDGs were developed from the United Nations Millennium Declaration which states that “every individual has dignity; and hence, the right to freedom, equality and basic standard of living that includes freedom from hunger and violence and encourages tolerance and solidarity.”

The 8 MDGs with measurable targets for improving the lives of people globally are:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development

All the world leaders present at the summit, committed their nations to this new global set of objectives and partnership to ensure that by 2015, there was a significant level of growth and development in the areas of human capital, infrastructure and human rights. It was also agreed that these presidents will enforce policies that favour the achievement of these goals.

To monitor the progress, the UN Secretary-General has issued annual reports on the advancement towards the implementation of the MDGs. The report, which is more like an assessment, is usually coordinated and published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

In the first MDGs review, published in 2005, Africa was the only continent declared “not on track to meet any of the goals of the Millennium Declaration by 2015” (UN World Summit Declaration, 2005). Several analysts announced Africa’s failure to make considerable progress. The 2005 report noted that  “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 Goal. The region is off track to meet every Millennium Development Goal.”

As of 2007, halfway to the deadline set to the achieve these goals, the level of pessimism towards Africa’s commitment to meeting up to the targets was still high. In a paper titled ‘Africa and the Millennium Development Goals’ by the United Nations, it was stated that sub-Saharan Africa [was] not showing growth. “At the midway point between their adoption in 2000 and the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve any of the Goals.” In the Blair Commission for Africa communique, it was reported that “at the midpoint of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), sub-Saharan Africa is the only region which, at current rates, will meet none of the MDG targets by 2015.”

Ventures Africa reviews four African countries with the aim of measuring how close/far they were in meeting the MDGs, particularly as we enter 2016 with the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Due to fluctuations in Egypt’s growth rate in 2000 and its re-emergence in 2013-2014, analysts had judged that the country would not be able to meet up with the MDGs. However, they were able to introduce some policies including the subsidy, increase in the value of social security pension and equitable investments. These strategies, in addition to their strong political environment, went a long way in helping Egypt be the first African country to meet 79 percent of the MDGs.

Also, Egypt took a long stride in the cure rate of tuberculosis. By 2012, with 87 percent, the country had surpassed the global cure rate which is currently 85 percent. Although Egypt is not completely free of other endemic diseases like hepatitis and cancer, its aggressive efforts towards the fulfillment of the goals placed it as the first African country to meet at least half of the goals.


Nigeria has performed woefully in meeting the 2015 target, ranking as one of the bottom ten countries. In meeting the fourth goal, which is to reduce mortality rate among children under 5 years of age, there were poor results recorded, particularly from the Northern part of the country.

According to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), about 77 percent of infants die before their first birthday in the north-western part of the country, while low rates were documented in other parts of the country.

The high mortality rate in northern Nigeria is largely connected to the prevalence of terrorism and insurgence in the area. Attacks in the north have caused the displacement of millions of Nigerians who lived in the area. With over 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) without wide-ranging health care system, it is not surprising that the high rate of infant mortality thrives in northern Nigeria.


Ranking sixth in the top ten list, Ghana recorded remarkable progress in achieving some of the Millennium Goals. By 2006, Ghana was leading the way by being the first sub-Saharan African country to cut the percentage of population living in extreme poverty by half.

Ghana’s success has been attributed to efficient policies, infrastructural development, better foreign investment outlays, improved government expenditures on key development programs and debt relief. Partnerships with major stakeholders in the agricultural sector also helped the West African country in achieving a significant reduction in malnutrition.


The inability of Burundi to achieve the MDG targets can mostly be attributed to a fragile political environment. The country has been plagued with civil unrest and ethnic conflict almost since its inception. This has led to slow economic growth and a significant increase in poverty levels over the years.

These factors have contributed to a very low ranking for Burundi. The MDG Track Global Index rated Burundi at 25 percent and ranked it among the countries that are most off track in meeting its target.

Researchers and analysts have suggested that perhaps, setting a target for Africa has painted a gloomier picture of the continent to the world. However, it is important to bear in mind that the major objective of these goals is development. Therefore, it is good to see African countries put in more effort in sectors like health, human capital, human rights and infrastructure in order to give their citizens a better standard of living.

Even though some countries fell below the mark, countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya sand Namibia have proven to the world that Africa is getting better. Therefore, Africans can anticipate more in terms of growth and development with the adoption of the SDGs.

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