Excerpted below is the adapted abstract, by lead authors Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu and Violet Murunga. The full report is available for download from the Wilson Center’s Africa Program.
Despite commitments to the program of action for the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development
and Millennium Development Goal 5
(focused on maternal and reproductive health), little progress has been made in improving access to family planning
and slowing rapid population growth
in Africa. Lack of political will has been highlighted
among the key factors behind the lackluster performance in addressing these sensitive development issues. However, the situation is changing with some African governments embracing family planning as a key tool for improving child and maternal health, slowing population growth, preserving the environment
, and enhancing broader efforts to alleviate poverty.
This study examines factors that have propelled the change in attitudes of some political leaders to champion family planning, assesses how such political will has manifested in different contexts, and explores how political will affects the policy and program environment. Mixed policy analysis methods were employed, including desk review of policy and program documents and stakeholder interviews conducted in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Rwanda – three countries that have made phenomenal progress in increasing contraceptive use in the recent past.
Lessons from this study will help galvanize efforts to improve access to reproductive health services in countries where little progress is being made. The results provide useful insights on the dawn of a new Africa where strategic political leadership is playing an increasingly valuable role in overcoming the continent’s longstanding development shackles. The study shows that political will is mainly changing due to increased availability of evidence showing that high population growth undermines efforts to alleviate poverty and hunger as well as investments in the quality human capital that least development countries desperately need in order to transform their economies.
The high sensitivity about childbearing and suspicions regarding the intentions of western development partners in promoting family planning in order to slow population growth are dissipating as more Africans are opting to have fewer children and demanding family planning. This study points to the need for global development partners to be much more cognizant of the drivers of Africa’s emerging success and focus their development assistance on enhancing, nurturing, and highlighting local leadership traits, capacities, and systems that are producing positive results, as well as support governments that have embraced family planning to ensure that no woman has an unwanted pregnancy due to lack of family planning.
Download the full report from the Wilson Center.