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Over 200 million people in West Africa live below poverty line – Dosso

Bakary Dosso – Director, West African Sub-Regional Office of the ECA

The regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has an estimated GDP of around $600 billion in 2018, accounting for about 24 per cent of Africa’s GDP. Despite economic acceleration in the region in 2018 fueled largely by rising oil prices and production in Ghana and Nigeria, more than half of citizens of the region are poor.

“In West Africa, a rough estimate shows that, out of an estimated population of 377 million in 2018, over 200 million or 53.5 per cent of people live below the national poverty line. This clearly demonstrates the magnitude of the challenges we all face,” Mr Bakary Dosso, the Director of the West African sub-Regional Office of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said at the opening of a two-day Ad-Hoc Meeting of the Expert Group to discuss national capacities and mechanisms for assessing progress in the implementation of the 2030 and 2063 agendas in Monrovia, Liberia on May 6 and 7, 2019.

Mr. Dosso noted that four years ago, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (September 2015) and the 2063 Agenda of the African Union (January 2015) were adopted. The expectations raised by these two development agendas are immense, he stated.

He said the SDGs represent an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate extreme poverty and put the world on the path to sustainable development.

For the 2063 continental agenda, in addition to these global aspirations reflected in the SDGs, is a call for action to implement the road map for ‘An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force on the international scene’, he said.

He urged countries in the sub-region to make major reforms to their macroeconomic and financial frameworks, invest in human capital, tackle infrastructure deficits, improve the business climate to meet the above challenges, and positively and sustainably reverse trends.

“The success lies in the ability of the national leadership to execute on time, to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the different agendas to which it has committed for the transformation of their respective countries and the continent,” he said.

He further pointed out that institutional capacities for evaluation and monitoring of development agendas have been identified as one of the missing links in development processes in West African countries.

“In line with the recommendation of the 21st meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICE) of West Africa held in Cotonou in Benin in June 2018, we are pleased to submit to your critical review, a study entitled “Capacities and National Institutional Arrangements for the Evaluation of the Implementation of 2030 and 2063 Agenda: State of Play, Challenges and Prospects in West Africa.

The purpose of this exercise is to inform and direct policy measures for the reinforcement of the evaluation capacities of public policies in West Africa,” he said.

Citing preliminary results of the  study, he said the challenges of the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of the 2030 and 2063 agendas are related to both the weakness of statistical systems, the weakness of funding and institutional organization for monitoring development agendas.

“In terms of statistics, it appears that the quality of the data produced suffers from major shortcomings, particularly in terms of regularity and accessibility. On average, 52 per cent of the main data collection operations do not meet the prescribed production calendar.

By way of illustration, after four years of implementing the SDGs only three out of 15 of the ECOWAS countries have updated the reference year of a key indicator that is the poverty rate namely, the proportion of the population living below the national poverty line, by sex and age,” he said.

Additionally, he indicated that this situation of weak capacity in the production of statistical data is a real handicap for the assessment of the performances of the countries in the implementation of the two agendas, but especially in the evaluation of the national public policies. This undermines the agility of governments and their ability to provide timely corrective action, he said.

Among others Mr Dosso said countries in the region who are engaged in the process of the national voluntary review of the 2030 Agenda will be able to outline the challenges and share best practices to enable countries engaged in the process of this year and the following to draw appropriate lessons.

In her remarks, Ms. Tanneh Geraldine Brunson, the  first Deputy Minister for Budget and Development Planning, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Republic of Liberia expressed Liberia’s deep commitment to continuing the country’s partnership with the sub-regional bodies as well as with the ECA.

She urged the countries in West Africa to rethink and develop actionable and transformative steps aimed at reducing poverty and other forms of backwardness.

“Let us all be reminded that our posterity – the generation yet unborn, will hold us all responsible for decision we make here today. I deeply admonish all of us, to take actions that will bring in a paradigm shift in our development styles; a development that will benefit this generation and not compromising the survivability of the generations yet unborn,” she said.

The two day meeting is being attended by experts and delegates from the ECOWAS region and development partners.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Monrovia, Liberia
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