In 2000, West African leaders signed the Millennium Declaration, which in turn led to the adoption of the Millennium development goals (MDGs) and the associated targets and indicators for 2015. The aspiration is to make the region a better place to live and to ensure that all West Africans are wealthier, more educated, healthier and more empowered to make the best of their innate potential.
Last year, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commissioned Global South Group to tour ECOWAS’ 15 Member States and collect data to track performance of poverty-reduction and MDG initiatives to date. Unfortunately, the results of the First Report on the MDGs and Poverty Reduction, Accelerating Growth in West Africa, confirm the findings of earlier studies. The countries of West Africa will not meet most of the MDG targets by 2015. Significant amounts of financial and human effort are needed to put Member States back on track.
Economic opportunities abound in West Africa, and immense potential exists for poverty reduction in the sub-region:
Source: Global South Group
Yet the region has made inroads in the fight against poverty. Major stumbling blocks to stable and continuous development efforts have been targeted more effectively. West Africa remains affected by the issue of competitiveness. The 2006 ECOWAS/WAEMU Regional Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper attempted to confront these issues. It is the only way to turn West Africa into a wealthier region. The region need to start financing development initiatives itself, according to its own needs, wants and methods.
The report seeks to monitor early efforts at promoting growth and competitiveness for the region, as well as social progress. Indeed, monitoring MDG results is important, but Global South Group researchers deliberately turned their attention to more fundamental indicators: which sectors can secure GDP growth? Which infrastructure investments should be prioritized to electrify the region and reduce transportation costs? How can we harness natural resource extraction in a way that benefits West Africans? These questions are dealt with extensively and should inform both Member States and interested investors.
There are several conclusions from the Report. The region is beginning to move along the path of integrated infrastructure development, but more efforts are required so that investment flows are larger, more coordinated and more efficient. It is up to West Africans to make sure each country’s potential and factor endowments attract more investment. Finally, it is up to the ECOWAS Commission to ensure that the efforts deployed by West African governments and institutions are recognized beyond the prism of the MDG indicators, which reflect West African challenges, but ignore their successes. In this light, the beginnings of standardized, region-relevant indicator collection across the 15 Member States of ECOWAS should enable to develop comparability of results and better advocacy for a West African-centric approach to development policy and priorities.