Millennium Development Goals: The future of giving to Africa...


The future of giving to Africa
Oct 1st 2010, 11:46 by J.L. | NAIROBI and NEW YORK

JOHN MCARTHUR is the brain behind the brain of Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Mr McArthur heads Millennium Promise ( , the philanthropic arm that oversees Mr Sachs's oft-praised and much-criticised Millennium Villages ( . Week in, week out, he tries to persuade companies and rich individuals to underwrite some of the running costs of the villages. There are 80 of them, in 10 countries. Mr Sachs conceived the villages as a solution to the end of rural poverty in Africa. A $1.5m* disbursement to each village, over five years, in a range of projects, was meant to germinate success in surrounding communities. Many of the villages have been successful, lessons have been learned, but they have not yet been scaled up to a point of significance. Mr McArthur, who is a strategist and academic as well as a fundraiser, represents the pro-aid school of thought, which argues that aid to poor countries has been insufficient and poorly spent. Sceptics say projects like the Millennium Villages hog too much money and dialogue for too little in return. For a typical exchange between the two sides, listen here ( /templates/story/story.php?storyId=130018505) . Baobab talked to Mr McArthur about aid to Africa and the continent's prospects. Baobab: Tell us about Millennium Promise. What are your ambitions? What have you achieved so far? John McArthur: Millennium Promise was established in 2005 as a charity dedicated to helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals ( . We focus on scalable models that can help the poorest communities escape extreme poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Our flagship initiative is the Millennium Villages project, which shows how a targeted and integrated set of low-cost practical investments can help tackle the challenges of agriculture, education, health, infrastructure, gender equality and business development. We pursue the project through a partnership with the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the United Nations Development Program. Our recent report, Harvests of Rural Development ( , showed breakthrough results, including three-fold increases in maize yields and access to drinking water, a 30% reduction in child stunting, and a more than a 50% reduction in malaria parasitemia. Millennium Promise has also helped to launch new initiatives focused on specific issues. For example, we incubated Malaria No More, a partnership aiming to end malaria deaths by 2015. More recently we have launched Connect To Learn, a partnership with the Earth Institute, Ericsson and [the pop star] Madonna, that focuses on dramatically expanding access to secondary education, especially for girls, while leveraging modern communications technology to improve the quality of that education. Baobab: The Millennium Development Goals jamboree ( /node/17090934) in New York City last week passed off last week with little fanfare. There is clearly a lack of political will in many rich countries to meet their aid commitments to Africa. Do we have any chance of realistically meeting the MDGs by 2015? JM: One of the most remarkable things about the aid discussion is how much it varies from country to country. The Cameron government's commitment to maintaining the UK's aid trajectory reflects inspired political leadership alongside a strong commitment to aid among the British public. South Korea became an official OECD donor this year and is highly committed to doing more. On the other hand, the situation is tough in Italy, France and Germany, which have fallen so far behind on their promises for 2010, with little internal consequence.

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which underpins transformational growth in 2 of 3 10/10/10 5:37 PM . especially for dry bits of Africa. with measurable results backed by clear points of accountability. can you give us some sense of your best and worst case scenarios for Africa in the medium term? JM: A best case includes child mortality dropping from 1 in 8 to 1 in 30. A water strategy for irrigation and livelihoods. and an African Green Revolution taking off in agricultural productivity across the continent.3% of national income. Mobile phones are connecting markets. half of them children. JM: I'm most excited about two types of technology.economist. since it allows all sorts of "leapfrogging" across all sectors. It is of major consequence. The demographic challenge remains one of the world's least appreciated. The practical debates typically have more convergence. Baobab: Finally. I anticipate we will soon see agricultural support services start to leverage mobile technology much more as well. One is rapid medical diagnostics. and how those lessons of success can be scaled across the board. Baobab: Where do you stand on the aid debate? Do you accept any of the arguments put forward by sceptics. so the key is to make sure they have the resources available to achieve all the MDGs. why it has worked. The MDGs require much more than money. Fortunately there are countless pioneering Africa professionals who are helping to make the best-case scenario possible. safe water points and so forth all come with a price tag attached. The ability to provide simple. Can you tell us a few of the technologies for African villages you are most excited about.. http://www. should the aid industry be displaying a greater sense of urgency? JM: The worst political risks are that we have an additional billion people living in places of extreme environmental and economic strain. fertiliser bags. low-cost diagnosis and treatment protocols offers transformational opportunities for rural health service scale-up. It is likely to have 2 billion before 2050. including insurance systems. but the strains can still be curtailed through efforts to support a voluntary reduction in fertility rates around the world. core economic infrastructure taking hold. Wireless-enabled computers will undoubtedly soon start to penetrate classrooms in the same previously remote areas. medicines. but they cannot be achieved in low-income countries without adequate money since the nurses. The underlying demographic momentum is a deep trend. and overhauling the way health services can be delivered in the rural areas where most Africans live. locally and beyond. Most people agree that aid systems should be focused on scaling known technologies. and these conditions can be ingredients for conflict. to the effect that in some cases aid creates dependencies that damage countries more than they help them? JM: It is a distraction to debate if aid is good or bad. Baobab: Africa has 1 billion people. has to be part of any long-term view.. The other big technology is mobile connectivity. secondary education rates soaring. including through reductions in child mortality and increases in girls' education. bednets. Baobab: It seems to me that rural Africa has to go hi-tech and one that aims at provoking public attention and one that aims at solving practical problems. It is crucial to focus on where large-scale aid has worked. I think there are actually two aid debates. avoiding consumptive middle technologies.Millennium Development Goals: The future of giving to Africa. What are the political risks associated with this? In light of such rapid growth. since major drops in precipitation and increases in temperature are clearly linked to conflict—likely due to the social strain caused by crop failures. As long as rich-country aid budgets are stuck at around 0. expanding access to banking systems.. The public debates are a bit mysterious because they typically reward hyperbole and misframe issues and people as if they represent polar opposites. I was recently at a clinic in rural Tanzania and watched a community health worker with a primary school education use a pin prick method to test a child's blood for malaria within 15 minutes.. Many low-income countries are already on track to achieve individual MDGs. Baobab: To what extent do you think Africa will suffer the effects of climate change? Is it something we should be preparing for? JM: The decline in precipitation in the Sahel since the 1970s is one of the world's most significant changes in climate patterns. there won't be enough resources available for every developing country to achieve all the MDGs—even setting aside countries in conflict or which are governance disasters.

agribusiness.. and manufacturing. I think the best case scenario is doable. A worst case includes economic stagnation amidst ongoing disease burden and extraordinary demographic and environmental All rights reserved. http://www.5m.economist... * Correction: the original figure given of $5m was spread over three years in installments of $1. and we all want to see it. A majority of African countries can escape the need for foreign aid within a generation. About The Economist online About The Economist Media directory Staff books Career opportunities Contact us Subscribe Privacy policy Terms & Conditions [+] Site feedback Help Copyright © The Economist Newspaper Limited 2010. Related item: read The Economist's take on the Millennium Development Goals (http://www. backed by a competitive real exchange rate.Millennium Development Goals: The future of giving to . Sorry. services.economist.. Advertising info Legal disclaimer Accessibility 3 of 3 10/10/10 5:37 PM .

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