Africa In Brief
More than a million people in sub-Saharan Africa, ten times more than three years ago, are now receiving life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs in Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports. In 2003, only 400,000 people in developing countries had access to such medicines. By the end of June, the total had risen to 1.65 million, or 24 per cent of all those estimated to be currently in need, the WHO announced in August at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada.
The organization warns, however, that the vast majority of those needing anti-retroviral drugs still do not get them. About 39 million people around the world have HIV and 7 million of those infected in low- and middle-income countries need anti-retroviral treatment. Also, the effort to expand access “has so far left children behind,” says WHO’s AIDS programme director, Mr. Kevin De Cock. An estimated 800,000 children, 15 years old and under, need anti-retroviral drugs. Although they constitute 14 per cent of annual AIDS deaths, such children make up only 6 per cent of recipients of the drug therapy.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) formally approved a plan to increase the voting power of four middle-income countries — China, Mexico, Turkey and South Korea — during its annual board meeting in September. However, as a result, the collective voting share of sub-Saharan African countries was cut in half.
The IMF says the decision is part of a two-step process to reform its quota system in order to grant member countries a voice in the organization based on their “relative positions in the world economy.” The system dates back to when the IMF was founded after the Second World War, and it was last revised in 1999.
African officials did not oppose increased voting power for other countries, but stressed that it should not be at their expense, considering the extent of Fund activities and lending on their continent. With 17 per cent of the quota, the US is the largest shareholder at the IMF. Its quota share remained unaltered by the September decision, but the Fund’s 47 sub-Saharan member states saw their relative share fall from 5 to 2.5 per cent.
Even though they constitute half of all international migrants and contribute billions of dollars in cash and services, the needs of women are often overlooked and ignored, says the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in a report, State of World Population 2006, released in September.
The report “calls on governments and individuals to recognize and value the contributions of migrant women, and promote and respect their human rights,” says UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. Out of 191 million migrants worldwide, some 95 million, are women and they contribute a significant portion of the money remitted home by migrants ($230 bn in 2005). In Africa, women constitute 47 per cent of the 17 million migrants, many of whom stay in Africa while others move to North America and Europe.
Africa is doing well in reforming its business environment, according to the World Bank and its private-sector financing arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). In fact, the continent is reforming at a much faster pace than Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, argues a joint report of the two institutions, Doing Business 2007: How to Reform, released in September. Its pace of pro-business reform lags behind only two other regional groupings, Eastern Europe/Central Asia and the wealthy industrialized nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The report ranks 175 countries’ everyday business regulations in 10 areas, including starting a business, acquiring licences, registering property and protecting investments. Two thirds of African countries made at least one reform in 2005/06, with Ghana and Tanzania ranking among the top 10 reformers. Côte d’Ivoire reduced the number of days required to register property from 397 to 32. The number of procedures for starting a business in Burkina Faso was cut from 12 to 8 and the total time required to complete them fell from 45 days to 34. Tanzania reduced the costs of registering a new business by 40 per cent, while Kenya eliminated its paper-based customs administration in favour of an electronic data system.
Despite progress, Africa countries still have the most complex business regulations, notes Mr. Michael Klein, IFC chief economist and a vice-president of the World Bank. “They would greatly benefit from new enterprises and jobs, which can come with more business-friendly regulations,” he added. “Big improvements are possible.”