Six years after the MDGs strategy, how close is Rwanda?

The world’s most powerful leaders from 189 countries in 2000 agreed to change the face of the universe. From inequality of poverty, rampant diseases, to women empowerment, the leaders also pledged to bring closer the most basic necessities to all the worlds’ poor people; they committed themselves to reduce the poverty levels by half by 2015.

The world’s most powerful leaders from 189 countries in 2000 agreed to change the face of the universe. From inequality of poverty, rampant diseases, to women empowerment, the leaders also pledged to bring closer the most basic necessities to all the worlds’ poor people; they committed themselves to reduce the poverty levels by half by 2015.

The promises to the world’s poor developing societies were carried in a new catch phrase that has become coined to international relations jargon today, the eight MDGs-Millennium Development Goals!

They are in no particular order reducing hunger, improve maternity health rate, reduce child mortality, promote gender equality and improve the status of women, put more children in school, environmental sustainability, development etc.

Six years down the road and nine to the deadline, Sunday Times George Kagame perused through several reports on Rwanda’s performance in regard to fulfilling the MDGs targets. Because of the nature of the goals so mentioned, nowhere on earth were MGDs badly needed and applicable like in Africa.

Africa is the world’s poorest continent. In 2001, 313 million out of the population of almost 800m people lived on less than a $1 day, compared with 227 million in 1990. 

Lack of employment and HIV and AIDS have taken their toll on living standards. 46% of people live in poverty in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, Rwanda remains committed to fulfilling the goals, setting up various options on the way like Vision 2020 and Economic Development for poverty reduction strategies (EDPRS). As if justifying Nicolo Machiavelli’s The End justifying the means, in this case the end being development.

The Rwandan government continues to show progress and with increased enthusiasm and embrace of the Development partners much has been achieved, but much more remains to be done.

Rwanda has managed to maintain annual economic growth of more than 5 percent since 2000.

This has enabled the government to lift more citizens above the poverty line. By any estimates there’s no disputing that the infrastructure of the country has greatly improved since the 1990s.

Rwanda is a country on the move, making tangible progress on delivering better health, education, growth, trade and poverty-reduction outcomes according to the EDPRS government’s document, figures and evidence highlighted show increased access of Rwandans to many social services in rural and urban areas.

James Musoni, Finance Minister says, “EDPRS in the first period of implementation has targeted social sector than economic sector that has much more positive impact on people’s incomes.”

The administrative, education and Judiciary reforms, provision of health insurance schemes-the reforms in the period 2003-6, plus a highly efficient public transport system and increased revenue from tourism speak volumes of the success of EDPRS in improving the socio-economy of Rwanda.

Above all, President Paul Kagame has been at the forefront of improving governance and assisting the private sector in attracting foreign investment and boosting trade with growing markets especially China.

The tourism industry has attracted the leading regional businesses including MTN, Serena, East African Breweries, and many more. Many jobs created in the process.

The war on poverty remains the single most important issue for the government, but even this will not be tackled if another much more complex problem is not immediately solved-that of high population growth rate.

According to figures from the National Housing and Demographic survey, Population Survey of 2004, in 1985, it was estimated that 40 percent of Rwanda’s households were below the poverty line.

This proportion increased to 53 percent in 1993 and to 66 percent in 1998. It is estimated at 64 percent in 2000. Although there is a slight decrease in the poverty level between 1998 and 2000, the current level in Rwanda is still very high.

Rwanda’s basic poverty line (Frw 64,000) and food poverty line (Frw 45,000) remains high for many Rwandans out of formal employment, so the problem of hunger needs much more effort. Progress on both counts depends on raising per capita incomes of those below the poverty line and is therefore affected by economic growth, the income distribution and the rate of population expansion.

Compared to other African countries, Rwanda’s mortality rate at 196 per 1000 birth and maternal mortality rate 750 per 100,000 live births one of the highest rates.

It is twice as high as for Uganda and Tanzania and almost 4.8 times the rate in Namibia (225 per 100,000 in 1992).

These DHS results indicate the considerable progress that must be attained to improve maternal health in Rwanda.

The controversial National Human Development index report released by the UN recently states that between 2001 and 2006, poverty declined from 60 percent to 56 Percent, it adds, 600,000 Rwandans live below the poverty line.

There is a contrast here because Rwanda’s economic growth continues to be among the top performers in Africa and an inspiration to conflict reconstruction, the population growth is certainly the problem which needs urgent intervention.

The achievements of Rwanda in implementing gender sensitive policies have been highlighted already, but the socially constructed gender roles of Rwandan society are economically and politically structured in such a way that women are disadvantaged in all areas compared to men.

Rwandan women and girls have limited access to education compared to men and boys.

The 2001 Households Living Conditions Survey estimated the literacy rates in Rwanda at 47 percent for women compared to 58 percent for men.

Only 5 percent of women benefit from apprenticeship training against 9 percent of men. 2 percent of women benefit from vocational training against 7 percent of men. Furthermore, 25 percent of women have never attended school or any literacy centre against 17 percent of men.

Whether Rwanda’s achievements today are all now possible because increased access to funds from donors is subject to another debate, but the country’s performance on achieving the MDGs is indeed impressive.

Ends

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