Africa – Some key facts
Africa is the second largest continent on earth, occupying 20% of the Earth's land area. Africa measures about 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from north to south and about 4,600 miles from east to west.
Africa’s population is slightly less than 14% of the total world population.
Only about 6% of Africa is arable; nearly 25% is forested or wooded.
Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Nigeria are the major petroleum and natural gas producing countries in Africa. Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa together produce 50% of the world's diamonds. Ghana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe together produce nearly 50% of the world’s gold.
Africa's major languages include Arabic (North), Berber (Morocco and Algeria), Bantu group of languages (central and southern Africa), Swahili (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), Akan (Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire), Saharan and Maba (Chad basin), Koma (the Blue Nile basin), and Songhai (upper-middle Niger River region).
Africa is home to 32 of the 38 Highly Indebted Poor Countries
What are the major challenges facing Africa today?
The challenges facing Africa are daunting. Africa has the highest proportion of its people in extreme poverty and is not on target to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed at the United Nations in 2000. The MDGs are:
Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty is falling, but there are large variations in progress between regions. Asia is making good progress, but there is little movement elsewhere and sub-Saharan Africa is going backwards.
The world already produces enough food, but the key to eradicating hunger is to ensure that ordinary people in the developing world can get access to it and that it’s affordable. Poverty is the principal cause of hunger.
Achieve universal primary education
Number of girls out of school in Africa is the highest in the world (23m)
Promote gender equality and empower women
Having more educated women with greater rights could make the single biggest positive difference to reducing poverty, the rate of childhood diseases and death and the spread of AIDS in developing countries.
Reduce child mortality
Thirty years ago, one in five children in the world died before their fifth birthday. This has now been halved to less than one in ten. Better access to vaccinations and other basic health services and improved living standards have contributed to a steep decline in global deaths among infants and children over the past 30 years.
Improve maternal health
Every year, more than half a million women die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth. Almost all of them would still be alive if they had access to a skilled midwife or doctor in childbirth and effective emergency care for women who have complications.
Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases
In Africa, in 2003, some 26.6 million people were living with HIV, 3.2 million people became infected, and AIDS killed 2.3 million.
Ensure environmental sustainability
Many of the world’s poorest people depend on natural resources for a healthy diet, clean water, shelter, energy, and medicines. What’s more, these people are often most vulnerable to disasters and hazards such as flooding, landslides and pollution brought about or exacerbated by environmental degradation
Develop a global partnership for development
The targets in the global partnership for development millennium development goal include a fairer trading and financial system. Getting rid of barriers to trade could lift almost 300 million people in the developing world out of poverty.
What is being done to help Africa?
Despite the challenges, there are signs of progress and more is achievable. Importantly, Africa’s development agenda is increasingly African-led. Improved partnerships between African and donor nations have resulted in increased aid flows being used more effectively.
The African Union
(AU), supported by the donor community, is helping to deliver many of Africa’s pre-requisites for development; particularly in the areas of peace and security and governance. The AU are developing the necessary structures and institutions to allow Africa to better prevent, manage, and resolve conflict in the region.
There has been a recent major shift in African effort to address the continents problems. The New Partnership for Africa’s development (NEPAD)
and the AU aim to tackle HIV/AIDS, reduce poverty and sustain long-term economic growth. It’s committed to governance and promoting peace and security. Many countries are showing signs of progress towards democracy
and governance. The African Union has established the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) as a voluntary self monitoring mechanism for states to conform to the agreed political, economic and corporate governance values. 24 countries have so far signed up to participate in the APRM.
A number of countries within Africa have made real progress:
In the last five years, Mozambique has reduced poverty from 70% to 55% and has doubled the number of children in school;
Kenya has introduced free primary education, which has brought 1.2 million children back into school;
In Tanzania, 1000 new schools have been built and 18,000 teachers recruited. This will enable Tanzania to achieve the goal of primary education for all in 2006 – 9 years before the target date of 2015;
Uganda has reduced HIV from 20% in 1991 to around 6.5% in 2001. The experience of Uganda in relation to HIV/AIDS shows that with political will the tide of an epidemic can be turned;
In 1973, only three African Heads of State were elected. Today, 40 countries have had multi-party elections;
Two years ago major conflicts affected 19 countries in Africa. Today that figure is three;
These are just a few examples of what can be done.
Countries in the north are recognising that partnerships with countries based on a commitment by both sides brings real benefits in the long term. High and predictable levels of resources
to countries that have a credible Poverty Reduction Strategy and the political will and capacity to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals can reduce poverty (this is the case in Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and Rwanda).
What is the G8 doing?
G8 have now promised to double aid to Africa, increasing aid to the continent by $25 billion a year by 2010. This is part of an estimated $50billion a year in extra aid worldwide by 2010, of which around $16billion will be available in 2006. And in June, G8 Finance Ministers agreed a deal to address the debts of the poorest countries, which will mean up to $55billion worth of debt relief for these countries.
These resources, and the strong political commitment to that goes with them, will be used to boost action in many areas. These include:
- Ensuring that by 2015 all children have access to free primary education of good quality and have access to basic health care (free wherever countries choose to provide this).
- Making sure that every country with a proper education strategy gets the resources needed to carry it out.
- Eradicating polio worldwide.
- Getting as close as possible to universal access to AIDS treatment by 2010
- Enhancing the African Union's ability to deploy its forces to prevent and resolve conflicts by training 20,000 troops. This is part of a G8 commitment to train 75,000 troops by 2010.
- Preventing malaria by providing 85% of the vulnerable with bed nets and drugs. This will save 600,000 children's lives a year by 2015.
- Supporting the African Peer Review Mechanism, to encourage African countries to improve the way they run their countries.
- Helping to make African countries better places to start and run businesses, helping to create jobs.
- Building Africa's capacity to trade. Leaders also agreed to set a credible end date for export subsidies and recognised poor countries' need to determine their own economic and trade policies.
The G8 also called for significant improvements in standards of governance, transparency and accountability, pointing out that only Africans can lead and shape Africa's development.
In 2002, under the Canadian Presidency, the G8 introduced the Africa Action Plan (AAP)
. This was the G8’s response to NEPAD. The AAP laid out commitments by G8 countries under specific areas of work to assist development in Africa, following the NEPAD agenda.
What is the Commission for Africa?
In the spring of 2004 the Prime Minister Tony Blair launched the independent Commission for Africa
. The Commission aimed to take a fresh look at Africa's past, present and to make clear recommendations for the future. The 17 Commissioners undertook extensive consultations with governments, NGO's, civil society, business and faith groups. In March 2005 they published their report "Our Common Interest". The recommendations in the report were accepted by the British government and they formed the basis for our Africa policy in 2005.
The Commission’s took a fresh look at Africa’s past and present, and the international community’s role, in order to agree clear recommendations for the future. Its work was intended to be comprehensive and challenging, addressing difficult questions where necessary.
What is the African Union?
The African Union (AU) is Africa’s primary regional organisation. It formally replaced the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 2002 and is similar in nature to the European Union. The AU has set itself important objectives in promoting peace and security, good governance and economic integration.
The organs of the AU include the Peace and Security Council, the Pan-African Parliament, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, Financial Institutions, and specialised technical committees. NEPAD is a programme of the African Union.
What is NEPAD?
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was initially developed and articulated by a small group of African leaders in 2001 and formally integrated into the African Union in July 2004. NEPAD is African owned and led and represents a long-term agenda for Africa. Over time it seeks to change the terms of engagement between Africa and the international community. Its work aims to:
Place African countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development
Halt the marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process and enhance its full and beneficial integration into the global economy;
Accelerate the empowerment of women
The NEPAD framework is founded on mutual accountability, based on the idea that if Africa is going to achieve the goals set out in NEPAD, both African governments and the international community must meet the commitments that they have made. This includes African governments’ commitments through NEPAD to improve their performance on economic and political governance, the G8’s commitments in the Africa Action Plan and international commitments elsewhere.
Where can I find out more?