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Stating the MDG Report 2015, "Africa made great strides towards the eight Millennium Development Goals. In many areas, especially related to health and education, the advance registered by Sub-Saharan Africa was the fastest among all developing regions. At the same time, the Northern part of the continent met many of the targets, including those on poverty and hunger reduction, universal primary education, children and mothers' health, as well as sanitation."

Nevertheless, many goals and targets have yet to be achieved:

  • In spite of the fact that the child mortality rate in Sub- Saharan Africa declined five times faster during 2005-2013 than it was 1990-1995, the region still detains the highest rate.
  • Furthermore, 70% of its population still suffers from lack of access to improved sanitation facility, 41% of its inhabitants still live, in 2015, with less than $1.25 a day and out of the 57 million of global out-of-school children of primary school age in 2015, 33 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In the past two decades, Northern Africa has not registered any improvements in women’s access to paid employment, with women still holding less than one out of five paid jobs in the non-agricultural sector.

Therefore, the Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges that "progress made in the last 15 years has been uneven, particularly in Africa where some MDGs remained out of track " and reiterates the need to focus on this continent, by "recommitting ourselves to the full realization of all the MDGs, including the off-track MDGs, in particular by providing focused and scaled-up assistance to least developed countries and other countries in special situations, in line with relevant support programmes. The new Agenda builds on the Millennium Development Goals and seeks to complete what these did not achieve, particularly in reaching the most vulnerable."

In its target 4.b, the Agenda highlights the necessity "to substantially expand at global level the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrollment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes".

It is also committed, in its target 9.a, to "facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island developing States. Whereas, it its target 10.b it calls to encourage official development assistance and financial flows, including foreign direct investment, to States where the need is greatest, in particular least developed countries, African countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their national plans and programmes".

Background information
Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio (1992), sustainable development remained elusive for many African countries, with poverty being a major challenge and desertification, deforestation and climate change its main treats.

Furthermore, only 15% of the Sub-Saharan African rural population had access to electricity in 2012 and the continent sorely lacks important infrastructure investments. The absence of access to modern energy services is a grave obstacle to sustainable development, as recognized by the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Initiative and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, and contributes greatly to Africa’s poverty trap.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), launched by African heads of state in 2001, has represented the response of African countries to those treats and challenges. NEPAD has indeed aimed at providing a framework for sustainable development to be shared by all Africa's people, emphasizing the role of partnerships among African countries themselves and between them and the international community, and proposed a shared and common vision to eradicate poverty through sustained economic growth and sustainable development.

African governments also reinforced the pace of regional integration through the rationalization of existing regional economic communities, increasing the power of the African Union, especially in the field of security and peace management.

These efforts have been supported by the international community, with financial and technical contributions to regional communities and specific initiatives to foster African development. Thus, the Heavily Indebted and Poor Countries (HIPC) program was initiated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1996, providing debt relief and low-interest loans to reduce external debt repayments to sustainable levels. Nominal debt service relief under HIPC to the 29 countries that have reached their decision points has been estimated to amount to about US$62 billion, a significant share of which benefited Sub-Saharan African countries.

For the United Nations in particular, Africa has been a priority area, as illustrated by the establishment of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) by the Secretary-General in 2003 and the reference to Africa's sustainable development as a cross-cutting issue in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (see chapter VIII) which emerged from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

A growing emphasis is being placed on the Nexus approach to sustainable development, seeking to realize synergies from the links between development factors such as energy, health, education, water, food, gender, and economic growth. In this regard and as part of the follow up to the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), in collaboration with SE4All, UN-Energy and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), organized Global Conference on Rural Energy Access: A Nexus Approach to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dec 4 – 6, 2013.

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