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analysisBy Caroline Kende-Robb
"Excellence is not a relative concept and we refuse to embrace a lower standard," wrote Mo Ibrahim to explain why his foundation withheld this year its prestigious Leadership Award.
Africa is on the move, but we still have a way to go, he said.
At the Africa Progress Panel, we agree with Mr Ibrahim's statement and we think it holds true for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) too. But while Mr Ibrahim can find no leader to award, we at the Africa Progress Panel applaud the many policy successes dotted around the continent.
Niger, for example, reduced its child mortality rates by 43 percent between 1998 and 2009, an annual rate of decline of 5.1 percent, according to a newly released study. This pace puts Niger well on track to meet MDG 4, a two thirds reduction in child mortality between 1990 and 2015.
In Tanzania, the share of national income spent on education has more than tripled since 2000, and the primary net enrolment ratio has doubled. The East African country is clearly on track to achieve MDG 2 on primary education for all.
But African leaders should not congratulate themselves just yet. Even as foreign investors rush to invest in Africa's rapidly growing economies, sub-Saharan Africa still has child and maternal mortality rates that are too high.
The continent may see economic growth of 4.8 percent this year, but the region still accounts for 36 out of 40 countries in the world with the highest maternal mortality rates. Meanwhile, the average child in sub-Saharan Africa still has a more than 10 percent chance of dying before the age of five.
We consider this of great concern.
Africa's "twin education crisis" will also be a drag on economic growth and could ultimately fuel political instability. Africa is set to miss by a wide margin the 2015 target date for universal primary education. And much of its education is anyway so abysmal that millions of Africans leave primary school without basic literacy or numeracy skills.
We and many, many others want to see African governments and their partners make a "big push" towards achieving the MDGs. This will inevitably require extra emphasis on closing Africa's inequalities that are linked to wealth, gender, and other divides.
But perhaps Mr Ibrahim could consider a leadership award for that.
Caroline Kende-Robb is the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, a group of distinguished individuals, chaired by Kofi Annan, dedicated to encouraging progress in Africa.