Still Our Common Interest – the Commission for Africa launches new report

Commission for Africa today launched its new report – Still Our Common Interestwhich calls upon African leaders to step up efforts to convert unprecedented economic opportunities into poverty reduction and development.

The new report, Still Our Common Interest, follows up on the previous report published in March 2005. It looks at what has happened in Africa in the past five years, conducts an audit of progress against each of the recommendations made in the 2005 report and makes recommendations for next steps.

Still Our Common Interest:

  • Celebrates the progress Africa has made in the past five years.
  • Calls on African governments to continue to promote growth and channel revenues into poverty reduction and key services.
  • Calls for donors to increase their support to Africa to take account of new challenges, in particular climate change.
  • Calls for the international community to support the capacity-building efforts of African governments by, for example, helping them access the best legal advice in negotiating deals for their natural resources.

Five years after it published its original report, the Commission for Africa is calling on African governments to act now to ensure that the region’s unprecedented economic growth and opportunities result in development and poverty reduction for ordinary Africans.

Africa has seen average growth rates of six per cent for most of the past decade and a quadrupling of trade and foreign investment. Some countries in Africa are on track to meet some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), reflecting the progress made since the last report. However, the majority of Africans have yet to experience the benefits of economic growth. Progress towards the MDGs needs to be broader and faster if the continent as a whole is to make significant progress towards meeting the MDGs.

In a short joint statement, the Commissioners said:

“There is much to celebrate. African governments have done more than ever before to promote business and investment. Donors have supported this by boosting their support to infrastructure and providing the aid and debt relief that has allowed African governments to increase their expenditure in key areas such as health, education and agriculture.

But there remains much to be done. Progress on reforming international trade rules has been dismal; donors are still providing less in aid than their commitments; and African governments are still not investing as much as they promised in key areas. That is why we believe this review is timely, and why we believe it is right to renew a number of the recommendations we made in 2005 – because they have yet to be fully implemented – as well as make new recommendations.

Africa’s development requires a range of measures, with African governments in the lead supported by the international community. For example, harnessing international demand for Africa’s natural resources to benefit ordinary Africans will depend on the commitment of African governments to passing on the benefits to their citizens, but also them having access to the best legal advice and a system of international trade that does not disadvantage Africa’s products.”

Still Our Common Interest, the Commission’s review of what has happened in and to Africa since it first reported in March 2005, makes recommendations for what needs to happen next to speed up progress on the continent.

It recommends that African governments:

  • Continue their efforts to make it easier to do business within and between their countries – including investing in much needed infrastructure.
  • Ensure that they are collecting the revenues from growth through improved domestic resource mobilisation.
  • Meet their commitments on spending on health, education, water and sanitation, and agriculture.
  • Develop and deliver clear strategies to create jobs, reduce poverty and strengthen key services such as health and education.

The report also calls upon developed countries to:

  • Get behind Africa governments’ own strategies for promoting growth and development.
  • Help Africa negotiate the best deals possible for the exploitation of its natural resources by supporting a fund to pay for the legal and technical advice to do this.
  • Kick start long-delayed reform of international trade rules.
  • Continue to support Africa’s development – including by supporting a Global Fund for Education and providing additional financing to adapt to climate change.
  • Agree that the G20 will take on the G8′s previous role in making and monitoring commitments to supporting growth and development in Africa.

Still Our Common Interest looks at what has happened against the Commission’s various recommendations.

Summary of key findings

In a number of areas, there has been “substantial progress”, including:

  • Steps taken by African governments to improve the investment climate and increases in aid and debt relief to the continent.
  • A substantial increase in investment in infrastructure which has contributed to Africa’s growth.
  • Progress towards an international Arms Trade Treaty.
  • Strong international support for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) that has enabled 300 million children to be immunised globally.
  • African governments’ commitment alongside strong donor support that has enabled access to the anti-retroviral treatments for HIV/AIDS to grow from 14% in 2005 to 43% in 2008
  • More children go to primary school and more get to sleep under a bed net that can protect them from malaria than ever before.
  • Africa is very close to eradicating polio.

But there are also a few areas where progress has been “disappointing”:

  • International trade reform is perhaps the area of least progress with no movement towards an agreement in the Doha Development Agenda, the removal of agricultural subsidies or trade agreements between the EU and African countries.
  • The Commission called for the amount of arable land under irrigation in Africa to be increased by 50% by 2010 – it has grown by just 0.9%.
  • Investment in higher education has not improved – contributing to a continued shortage of trained teachers, doctors and other key professionals.

Progress on most recommendations has been mixed – with some but limited positive movement:

  • Advances in expanding enrolment and closing the gap between the numbers of girls and boys in primary school is tempered by a relative lack of progress in improving the quality of basic education and in the number finishing primary school and going on to post-primary education.
  • The spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa has been halted in many parts of the continent, but sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst affected region in the world.
  • There has been increased donor support to sexual and reproductive health services but overall underinvestment in reproductive health, contributing to the lack of progress in reducing child and maternal mortality.
  • There still much to be done to attract investment – including a massive need for better infrastructure.

The 2010 report is being launched at the British Museum on 13th September and will also be launched at the MDG Summit in New York on 20th September.

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4 Responses to “Still Our Common Interest – the Commission for Africa launches new report”

  1. The Commission for Africa welcomes the improvements in economic governance in many African countries in the last 5 years. But international surveys suggest a different story indicating there has been no improvement in economic freedom and in tackling corruption in the last 5 years in sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps that is why, as the Commission for Africa admits, the vast majority of people on the continent are still awaiting the benefits of economic progress. The Commission for Africa needs to get real.

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