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What We’re Reading: ONE Data Report 2013, Part 1

By Trent Anderson

ONE CampaignAs we peel back another page on the calendar, the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is fast approaching. While 2015 appears in the distant future, in reality the MDG goals are less than 1,000 days away. ONE, the anti-poverty campaign established by philanthropic superstar and U2 front-man Bono, teamed with DATA to release the 2013 Report tracking how developing countries are progressing on the ambitious MDG targets using the ‘MDG Progress Index’. The 2013 DATA Report: Financing the Fight for Africa’s Transformation offers positive data for some Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, namely Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda – sites of Opportunity International relief efforts. However, the report drives home the point that the Sub-Saharan region continues to fall behind other developing regions. ONE provides direct answers to resolve the issues of SSA nations by 2015. Additionally, the report offers ideas for how the global community can expedite its efforts in a sprint to the MDG finish line. The first entry on the ONE DATA will provide readers with highlights from the study while the second will focus on possible solutions to MDG issues.

Strong Progress Overall

Perhaps the most encouraging finding from the Report included an increase in the number of MDG “trailblazer countries,” or countries with an MDG Index score of at least five. Approximately 10 of 45 MDG trailblazers are in Sub-Saharan Africa — almost twice the number of trailblazer countries from two years ago. These statistics suggest that focused charitable efforts and strong government cooperation have made select SSA countries hotbeds for MDG progress. Opportunity International has over 1,500 staffers on the ground in trailblazing countries like Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda. Among the many services offered, Opportunity provides Edu-School Loans, Agricultural Finance programs, Voluntary Savings programs, Financial Literacy, and Staff Leadership Development to the four MDG stars. The sustainable development approach featured at Opportunity should cement the efforts of dedicated staff and ensure that progress turns into achievement in Sub-Saharan Africa. While the number of MDG leaders increased, 14 poor countries (nine in sub-Saharan Africa) are lagging behind and have shown little improvement over time, or in some cases have declined. This year, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe stand out as the worst-performing countries, with MDG Progress Index scores of only 0.5. There remains a worrying trend that economic growth is not as related to poverty reduction as it could be, raising questions about the inclusivity of growth as well. Political turmoil in war-torn countries like the DRC has long-standing harm to the health, education and agriculture of the country and its people.

Sub-Saharan African Resources Have Exploded Over the Past Decade

In 2000, domestic and donor government expenditures and private resource flows totaled approximately $105 billion. By 2011, they had grown more than four-fold, reaching an estimated $468 billion. The IMF projects that domestic and private resource availability will continue to grow quickly over the coming years, driven by strong economic growth and growing private sector interest. SSAs do not seem to be starving for resources given these notable funding strides. The reason why some MDGs seem unreachable could be because of negative side-effects created by statistical goal-setting. African countries’ commitments to the MDGs related to extreme poverty, hunger, education, gender, child mortality, and HIV/AIDS are vital for increasing support for social sectors, but they have also raised some important considerations.

First, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not reflect country-specific needs and political settings. For example, governments may not want to allocate 10 percent of domestic outflows to agriculture if their economies and labor force are not concentrated in that sector. These types of quantitative spending commitments could have unintended costs in terms of encouraging unproductive programs (i.e. costly and corruption-prone support programs) or promoting the completion of quantitative targets over the quality of services delivered. Second, these MDG-related spending commitments could crowd out public investments in other African Union priority areas not mentioned as MDG targets, like infrastructure — (the report particularly identifies power and transportation). Global investors would be wise to closely monitor resource allocation in the Sub-Sahara region to ensure that sustainable progress turns into achievement, regardless of MDG status. Opportunity International helps alleviate donor apprehension and safeguards efficient resource allocation by moving people from a cycle of poverty into a sustainable cycle of success. Its holistic banking model delivers – from the Philippines to Sub-Saharan Africa to Nicaragua. The cycle starts with Opportunity providing a loan to build a business. The client then receives business and leadership training and is supported and empowered by a trust group. The result is business growth and success. In fact, 95 percent of loans are repaid. And, with that, $1,000 grows to $6,000 over five years, as loans are recycled, allowing more clients to receive loans. It’s taking an investment, leveraging the funds, and reinvesting back into the business of our clients.

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