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MDGs: Will Africa succeed?

By Klaus Weichhaus
Much debate surrounds the real progress made by Africa to date with regards to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. The aim of having the millennium goals was to encourage development by improving socio-economic conditions in the world's poorest countries.

Why then, after over a decade of the initial meeting, and with just under four years left to reach the set deadline, are the poorest nations still poor, and in some cases their conditions have even deteriorated since the turn of the millennium?

Have the world leaders committed themselves in principle to something they know they will not achieve in practice? Has the environment, which is the most important resource essential to achieving these goals, been conserved and utilised sustainably so as to assist in poverty eradication? Most problems today are a result of poor policy planning, rampant corruption and greed among those in governments. Governments are failing to render basic service delivery to citizens.

There is a lag in employment opportunities, which has led to Africa being the "poorest" continent. Perhaps now is the time for Africa to look at newer avenues so as to convert today's "challenges" into tomorrow's opportunities. What if Africa looks at recycling, not just in principle, but also in practice?

What if we look at recycling as a solution to ending poverty? As a strategy that will help attain universal education and promote gender equality? What if we see an opportunity in waste recycling to help combat the HIV and Aids pandemic and promote sustainable partnerships, together with ensuring environmental sustainability?

Perhaps waste management and recycling could be the answer Africa is looking for to at taining the MDGs by the year 2015.

It has been generally accepted that in any crisis (economic, social, natural) strapped nation, especially the less economically empowered world, the physical environment tends to suffer the most from human interference due to man's coping strategies.

The effects economic recession has had on many Western countries has had drastic effects on African economies. Many have been left without a source of income due to mass retrenchments.

This has played negatively on Africa's human development, as can be seen by the number of African countries ranked to have very low human development in the 2010 Human Development Index Report. This has also added more burden to the already existing situation in development patterns in Africa, where unemployment and poverty levels are generally high.

The reason why Africa has been lagging in achieving the development goals has been lack of financially empowering employment opportunities that focus on the most disadvantaged in African society.

With high unemployment rates, and many countries going through economic chaos due to unaccountability of public office bearers, Africa as a whole will certainly not be able to reach the goals before the set 2015 date.

Formal employment is hardly readily available, and nepotism and greed have seen only a privileged few being absorbed into the mainstream economy.

However, provision of a steady income to households through selling of waste has potential of seeing many families send their children to school, and hence achieve universal primary education in societies that are currently financially and economically challenged in Africa.

So, will introduction of recycling initiatives and a scaling up of already existing initiatives in Africa mean a reduction in poverty and thereby address the development goals before 2015?

The Co-operative Model, a co-ordinated and focused approach to waste recycling, employment creation, poverty alleviation and Africa's attaining of the Millennium Development Goals becomes relevant. The co-operative model is one that many African countries can relate to.

Even in the early "primitive" years of Africa's development, many of our forefathers believed in the strength in numbers to get a particular task done.

If properly co-ordinated, the co-operative model can offer poverty alleviation solutions not only in the waste-recycling sector, but in all other sectors outside the mainstream economy. This is because employment creation opportunities through the co-operative model are vast compared to individual efforts. Much can be achieved with regards to poverty alleviation and other MDGs, apart from attaining environmental sustainability.

One co-operatively run recycling initiative, for instance, a multi-recycling buyback centre, can create employment opportunities for no less than five individuals. The average direct beneficiary number per initiative can be 15, with an unlimited number of indirect beneficiaries who will be selling recyclable material to the buyback centre, in return for cash.


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