General News Sun, 25 Jul 2010

African leaders score poorly in fulfilling promises

African leaders have not kept their promises and are failing their citizens, according to a new report released yesterday as Heads of State arrive in Kampala for the African Union (AU) Summit.

The “State of the Union” coalition is the first of its kind set up to monitor how African governments deliver on their development commitments, from increasing investment in healthcare and agriculture to improving human rights and tackling corruption.

Drawing on studies from ten key AU nations, the report finds a picture of unfulfilled promises, missed targets and failure to invest in the development of the continent. Most of the landmark announcements made at previous AU Summits are far from being implemented.

A scorecard issued with the report rated South Africa as the best performer of the ten, closely followed by Algeria, Egypt and Senegal while Nigeria and Cameroon came last. But the report noted that all the governments have a lot more to do.

“African politics is now characterised by broken promises. There is a vast gap between the words of our leaders and the reality of our citizens, and we hope holding governments accountable can be the tipping point to bring real change,” Mr Irungu Houghton, Pan Africa director of Oxfam, from Kenya said. “Huge sums of money are being spent on the AU Summit in Kampala, but it may as well be thrown into the Nile if the only outcome is yet more empty rhetoric that is never turned into action,” he added.

While the overall scorecard shows poor performance by governments, it did highlight some impressive achievements as well. In particular it welcomed the growing acceptance of concepts such as free primary education and healthcare, and free access to treatments for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. “Africa’s potential is enormous. This year, eight of the word’s 20 fastest growing economies will be African. What matters is how this increasing wealth is invested – will AU leaders spend it on making the rich elite even richer, or on delivering real development for all of their citizens,” Ms Paula Monjane, Mozambiquan director of the Civil Society Learning and Capacity-building Centre said.


The report launched exactly one year since African leaders promised to ratify all outstanding AU treaties, conventions and charters within 12 months. With 35 such agreements and 53 nations, this would require at least an additional 1,000 ratifications. Instead there were just 32 new ratifications last year. Implementing these initiatives would bring immediate benefit to hundreds of millions of Africans. Healthcare is one example of broken promises. Nine years after AU states committed to invest 15 per cent of their national budgets on healthcare, only six countries have done so. Many, such as Uganda and Tanzania, are now even reducing the spending. Targets to tackle tuberculosis and child mortality have been missed by 90 per cent of AU members. Nigeria spends a pitiful 3.5 per cent of its budget on healthcare, while two thirds of Ghanaians and Kenyans still do not have easy access to basic health facilities. Yet Egypt has managed to half the number of its women dying in childbirth by investing in healthcare professionals and family planning. Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with 70 per cent of its people under the age of 30, yet AU leaders are failing to realise this potential, the report found. For the youngest citizens the result can be fatal. Last year, one in eight African children died before their fifth birthday, while one in three still do not go to school. Algeria, Egypt and Rwanda have made great progress in slashing child mortality and reaching universal primary education, but Kenya and Cameroon have gone backwards and now see more children dying than they did five years ago.

Most governments scored poorly on providing food security for their citizens. While many have increased investment in agriculture, most are still far below the agreed target of 10 per cent of national budgets. Africa now imports a third of its grain – whereas it used to produce a surplus. Where public funding has increased, such as in Malawi and Ghana, it has helped small-scale farmers flourish and provided access to fertilisers, seeds and markets. Meanwhile many AU governments are leasing fertile land to international investors, further increasing competition for scarce pasture and resources.

African women now have a greater say in the running of the continent, but they are still far from equal. At least 80 per cent of farmers in Africa are women, yet incredibly they own only one per cent of the land. Over 40 per cent of women have never had a basic education, despite evidence that it can reduce risk of maternal mortality and HIV transmission.

Rwanda was noted for praise in improving women’s participation in the political process, with 56 per cent of the National Assembly are women. Women also continue to suffer from practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation, which AU leaders have previously promised to address. The coalition said the international community also bears some responsibility for the failure to meet targets. Decades of privatization and structural adjustment programmes have made healthcare unaffordable to millions of people.

Controlled prices and export-focused policies have undermined small-scale farmers. Africa is the only continent where food aid outstrips external financing for agricultural investment.

Source: Dorothy Nakaweesi, Sunday Citizen