Senior UN official urges Africa to focus on agriculture, jobs and social services

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark

16 July 2010 – A combination of investment in agriculture, basic social services and job creation is the key to ensuring that Africa can meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – including slashing poverty, reducing illiteracy and boosting maternal and child health, all by 2015 – according to a senior United Nations official.

Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), made the comments during her three-day visit to Ghana which wrapped up today.

Miss Clark, who met with Ghanaian officials, including President John Evans Atta Mills, and several Government ministers, praised the country’s advances towards the MDGs.

“Ghana has a great story to tell about how investing in agriculture drove down poverty, and there are many blessings to share,” she stated, pointing to a successful democratic transition, the establishment of solid institutions and legal reforms, among other things.

By 2006, Ghana became the first African country to have almost halved the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, UNDP noted in a news release.

The country has implemented several flagship programmes that helped to accelerate the country’s MDG achievement, including a school feeding programme that covers over half a million pupils and a national youth employment programme employing an average of 100,000 youths annually.

Ghana also improved the delivery of public services, such as the police and the health care system, and it has increased the number of women in decision-making positions.

As part her visit, Miss Clark also attend UNDP’s annual meeting with the UN Resident Coordinators in Africa, examining Africa’s recent economic and development progress.

She noted at the meeting that Africa’s economic prospects are encouraging, citing a recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting that sub-Saharan Africa will be the second-fastest growing region in the world this year and next with double digit growth rates.

Africa is an important contributor to the global economy, she pointed out. “Africa is not part of the problem. Africa is part of the solution.”

At the same time, she warned that while robust growth is required to meet the MDGs, growth must serve to create jobs and make investments that can benefit long-term human development.

“Halving the number of people living with extreme hunger is achievable, and so are our targets on education, but as we meet the basic benchmarks, we will also need to tackle the next generation of goals.”

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