A Critical Year For African development

Updated Tuesday, 8th August 2006
2005 was a critical year for Africa, with high profile issues being raised and discussed at international level. Adèle Langlois considers why this was an important time for Africa, and the major issues under discussion in our article 'A critical time for Africa'

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An election poster from South Africa

2005 is an exciting year. We are seeing an unprecedented interest in Africa by those in the developed world. Symbolically, 2005 marks the 20th anniversary of Live Aid and the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Brandt Commission’s groundbreaking report, “North-South”. But more than this, people are looking forwards through a variety of initiatives aimed at sustainable development for Africa. And they are gathering momentum.

Statistics on Africa are shocking. Sub-Saharan Africa has actually got poorer in the last generation, the only part of the world to do so. By 2002 its share of world trade had plummeted to half that of 1980. It houses about 10% of the global population but 60% of those living with HIV. Half of all Africans live on less than a dollar a day and more than half do not have access to safe drinking water. Each year, over 2 million infants die before their first birthday.

But Africa is also a continent rich in culture, people and natural resources. Several of the current initiatives aim to harness these, offering novel perspectives on opportunities for sustainable development. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), owned and driven by African leaders, has come up with a “new vision” for the region. The Commission for Africa, set up by the UK government but consisting of a mainly African membership, aims to take “a fresh look at Africa’s past and present and the international community’s role in its development path.”  The Commission’s report will play a key role in providing recommendations for African development to the G8 summit in July.

NEPAD, as an example of positive change in Africa, was in part the inspiration for the Commission, which worked very closely with both the Partnership and the African Union in compiling its March 2005 report. Further impetus came from the “the political and symbolic opportunity that 2005 presented”, in terms of the UK’s presidencies of both the G8 and the European Union, as well as the Live Aid and "North-South" anniversaries.  2005 is also the year that the UN will hold a major summit to review progress towards its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Coming full circle, the MDGs in their turn inspired NEPAD, which ensures that all its partnerships are in line with the Goals and other development targets.

It is not only political leaders who are seizing the moment. Alongside all these initiatives, the Make Poverty History (MPH) campaign, part of the Global Campaign Against Poverty, is challenging everyone to get involved and lobby those in power to ensure that change really does take place. One of its core activities will be a mass rally in Edinburgh just before the leaders of the G8 meet in nearby Gleneagles. That same day, 2nd July, LIVE 8 will host simultaneous concerts in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia, featuring some of the biggest names in music and calling for an end to poverty.

The BBC reflects all this through BBC Africa Lives Season, running from February to October 2005. The highlight will be a week of programming on BBC ONE timed to coincide with the Edinburgh rally and the G8 summit, from 2 to 9 July.


An election poster from South Africa NEPAD
NEPAD stands for New Partnership for Africa’s Development. Formally adopted in July 2001, it is a strategic framework for meeting the challenges posed by increasing poverty, underdevelopment, conflict, poor governance and marginalisation. Recognising that radical measures were needed, African leaders came up with a new vision designed to guarantee the continent’s renewal.


The vision is a holistic one, aiming for sustainable development through good governance, capacity building, integration into the global economy, increased competitiveness and effective use of African resources. African ownership and leadership, broad participation, empowerment of women, regional integration and equal international partnerships are vital. Policy reform and greater investment in agriculture, health, education, science and technology, infrastructure, trade, finance, tourism and the environment are priorities.

NEPAD is part of the African Union (AU). It is implemented at the highest level by the Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee, which reports to the AU Summit each year.

Commission for Africa
The Commission for Africa was created in early 2004, at the behest of Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister. Its central aim was to contribute to "Action for a strong and prosperous Africa" through producing a fresh and positive perspective on the way forwards for African development.

There were 17 Commissioners in all, most of them African. They included the President of Tanzania, the Ethiopian Prime Minister and the campaigner and singer, Sir Bob Geldof. The Commission worked on 6 themes: culture and participation, human development, the economy, governance, peace and security and natural resources. It consulted widely, holding big events in Africa and worldwide, promoting discussion online and inviting written submissions from charities, universities and other organisations.

The final report was published in March 2005, comprising over 80 recommendations for action. It is available on the Commission’s website, along with press releases, FAQs, resources for schools and a timeline of activities.

The G8
The G8 nations are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The UK holds the Presidency for 2005, with the next summit being held in Scotland in July. Tony Blair has chosen Africa and climate change as key themes and is looking to the G8 to take the Commission for Africa’s recommendations forward. Much needs to be done if the UN Millennium Development Goals (see below) are to be met by 2015.

To complement NEPAD, the G8 agreed on the Africa Action Plan (AAP) in 2002, which encourages debt relief and promotes initiatives to achieve development in sectors such as health, agriculture, trade and governance. There will be a progress report in 2005. Further commitments towards debt relief and peace and security measures were made and at the 2003 and 2004 summits.

Make Poverty History
Make Poverty History (MPH) is a coalition of over 420 charities and other organisations that aims to do exactly what its name says, claiming that in 2005 we have the “resources, knowledge and opportunity” necessary. Celebrities endorsing the campaign include Brad Pitt, Bono and Kylie Minogue.

The wider public can get involved by signing up and taking a few minutes a week to send an email or text to those in power. Timed to coincide with the G8 summit, a big march for debt cancellation, trade justice and more and better aid, MPH’s 3 main goals, are being organised in Edinburgh on 2nd July.

A key symbol of the campaign is the White Band, which can be worn on your wrist, in your hair or anywhere you like. Details of how to get one can be found on the website, along with advice on getting to Edinburgh, ideas for further action, regional contacts, resources for schools and press releases.

Millennium Development Goals
In 2000, the 191 member states of the United Nations (UN) agreed to achieve 8 goals by 2015. These are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN will hold a Millennium Review Summit in 2005 to assess progress. The MDGs are:

  • Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, halving the number of people living on less than a dollar a day
  • Primary education for all boys and girls
  • Gender equality and empowerment of women
  • Child mortality down by two thirds
  • Maternal mortality down by three quarters
  • Reversal in the spread and incidence of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases
  • Environmental sustainability, including halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water
  • A global partnership for development

The website includes links to the UN Secretary-General’s reports since 2001, press releases, stories, fact sheets, progress reports (general and by country) and statistics on achievements so far.

BBC Africa Season
In recognition of the prominence of African issues in 2005, the BBC is offering a whole host of programmes and projects on television, radio and the internet. The season culminates with a week on BBC ONE (2-9 July) devoted to “the colour and contradictions of African life and culture.” Dramas, documentaries, natural history and news will all feature, including a personal journey through Africa for Bob Geldof, a series on an African school, a love story by Richard Curtis and a Question Time special from South Africa.

The BBC Africa Season is part of Africa 05, a massive celebration of African culture through live events and exhibitions across the UK. People will be able to experience the richness and diversity of African cinema, literature, history, music, craft and visual and performing arts.

The Africa05 website includes a “What’s On” for BBC programmes and listings of live events around the country. Africa Lives has information on fairtrade, responsible tourism and African culture.

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