FORESIGHT AFRICA: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2019 (1)

Alula Berhe Kidani

“The global development agenda is daunting, but practical reforms and interventions promise a meaningful path forward. If the international community can navigate wisely and hold to a rational, positive outlook, then the African continent can achieve great things for itself and for the world. The Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings will continue to be immersed in studying the most important issues for the continent and in offering hopeful and constructive policy options for the future.” John R. Allen, President, Brookings Institution
This is a review of the yearly report published by the Africa Growth Initiative, Global Economy and Development of the US prestige’s Brookings Institution. In the report introduction Brahima S. Coulibaly, the Director of the Africa Growth Initiative wrote ; As 2019 begins, reasons for optimism about Africa’s ability to capitalize on the progress achieved in recent years and to advance the region’s economic potential abound. The 2014 terms of trade shock from the commodities slump that hit many countries in the region hard has largely dissipated. Across the continent, economic growth is projected to expand at the fastest pace in five years. Nearly half of the world’s fastest growing economies this year will be African. Business environments are improving, thanks to widespread reform efforts, and Africa’s leadership and institutions are more assertive in
advancing the continent’s agenda.
Under the leadership of the African Union, regional integration is advancing, specifically through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and through policies in support of the free movement of Africans across the continent, bucking global , protectionist trends. Unprecedented dynamism across the continent is creating trade and investment opportunities and is drawing interest from an increasingly diverse group of external partners. Democracy is consolidating, although the prevalence of tensions and, in some countries, violence during elections point to areas for improvement. The demographic tidal wave looms closer, and job creation has not yet been able to catch up. Finally, despite continued progress on governance, more efforts are needed to eradicate corruption and to elevate the voice of women and young people in decision making.
I am hopeful that Africa will rise to these challenges in 2019 through renewed determination and a great sense of urgency. Foresight Africa 2019 highlights the triumphs of the past years as well as strategies from our experts to tackle the remaining obstacles. In Chapter 1, authors examine how good governance, elections, and institutions of democracy are advancing across countries. Much of Africa’s economic development depends on governance that serves the interest of ordinary citizens, advances democratic values, and quashes corruption. The wide age gap between leaders and
populations, and the underrepresentation of women and young people underscore the need for inclusivity. In 2019, good governance with these goals in mind offers a path forward. Upcoming elections in countries like Nigeria and South Africa could strengthen democracy and governance systems, but only if inclusive and supported by civil society and the rule of law. These elections could pave the way for reforms to revive Africa’s two largest economies.
In Chapter 2, the leadership of South Africa and Nigeria share their respective approaches to achieving this feat. One key risk threatening the regional outlook is what many fear is a looming debt crisis. To sustain growth, many governments must balance between mobilizing financial resources for economic development and controlling indebtedness. The authors implore governments to update debt management frameworks and strategies accordingly and strengthen governance around tax revenue collection. Africa’s working age population is growing rapidly, with estimations that the number of young people entering the region’s workforce will exceed that of the rest of the world by 2050. While this youth bulge is a potential economic boon, a stagnant industrial sector and the increasing adoption of labor-saving technologies in production present
a massive hurdle to overcome before dividends can be realized. In Chapter 3, authors offer strategies for countries to secure large-scale employment opportunities for youth and for realizing the demographic dividend. Although economic growth prospects bring hope, extreme poverty and state fragility prevails in parts of Africa. This year, the World Data Lab estimates that 70 percent of the world’s poor will live in Africa—mostly in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. By 2030, 13 African countries will see an increase in the number
of those living in extreme poverty. Based on these forecasts, poverty will continue to strain government institutions and threaten stability. Climate change will exacerbate the challenge, with disproportionate effects on the Sahel and other unstable areas.
In Chapter 4, authors argue for institutional changes and new approaches to eliminate poverty and fragility so no country is left behind. One recurring recommendation is for solutions anchored in private sector development. Though progress toward ending poverty remains frustratingly slow, massive opportunities exist for the private sector in African markets, and if seized wisely, could help many climb the income ladder toward greater prosperity. The middle class
is expanding, with businesses jumping at the chance to meet their consumption needs. Africa’s population is young, fast growing, and increasingly urbanized, with rapid technology adoption making the continent fertile for innovation. Economic dynamism in many parts of the region is generating business opportunities in infrastructure, housing, health, financial services, and other areas. In Chapter 5, authors document why Africa is the world’s next big growth market and recommend strategies for successfully navigating the region’s business landscape.
On the trade and investment front, the AfCFTA stands to knock down barriers to intercontinental trade and investment, thus accelerating industrialization, and facilitating economic diversification and inclusion. Globally, Africa continues to attract interest from the likes of the U.S. and China. In Chapter 6, authors assess the potential of the AfCFTA and look at the implications of the new free trade agreement.
This edition of Foresight Africa illuminates the priorities of the continent in the coming year, with recommendations for tackling the challenges that lie ahead. Africa is brimming with promise, and, in some places, peril. With its array of contributions, this year’s edition reflects both the diversity of the continent and the common threads that bind it together. With that aim, we set out to promote and inform a dialogue that will generate sound practical strategies for achieving shared prosperity across the continent.
This compendium is the culmination of the in-depth, quality work we strive to provide to African, international, and U.S. policy communities throughout the year. We look forward to further exploring Africa’s priorities through high-profile events at Brookings and across the continent, informed by our research, commentary, engagement, and action. Many thanks to you, our donors, and the leadership of the Brookings Institution for the continued support and commitment to the Africa Growth Initiative.  The section on ; Bolstering good governance: The imperative of inclusion and efficiency Governance lags behind youth expectations and needs. In this section the famous Sudanese bilinear, Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation wrote ;
The 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) measures performance of the provision of political, social, and economic public goods and services that every citizen has the right to expect from their state, and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens. In the IIAG, country performance in delivering governance is measured across key dimensions that effectively assess a country’s Overall Governance performance.
Over the past decade, public governance in Africa remains on average on a moderate upward trajectory, mainly driven by progress in Gender, Health, and Infrastructure. The 2018 IIAG shows that approximately 3 out of 4 African citizens live in a country where public governance
has improved over the past 10 years.
Many positive trends emerge from this year’s index. Thirty-four out of 54 African countries have improved in Overall Governance over the past decade, with 15 of these having accelerated their pace of improvement in the past five years. Among those, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, and Kenya display the most impressive progression, stepping up from 41st, 25th, and 19th ranks out of 54 countries to 22nd, 15th, and 11th over the past decade, respectively. On the continent, improvements stand out in indicators related to Health, the most improved of the 14 sub-categories of the IIAG over the past decade, as well as in Gender and Infrastructure. There are also recent and welcome improvements in Rule of Law and Transparency & Accountability, even if scores in the latter are still low.
But despite these improvements, needs and expectations of the continent’s youth are not met. Faced with unprecedented demographic growth, key governance areas are not progressing fast enough to keep up with rising demands, and more specifically to answer the growing expectations of Africa’s youth (under 25 years old), who now represent more than 60 percent of our continent’s population and are still expected to increase their number by almost 20 percent in the next decade.
Considering Africa’s youth population growth, it is concerning to see the recent downturn of the African average score for Education. For 27 countries—half of African countries—Education scores registered deterioration in the past five years, meaning that education outcomes are worsening for more than half (52.8 percent) of Africa’s youth. Though enrollment levels are higher, this concerning drop is driven by a fall in the indicators measuring whether education is meeting the needs of the economy, as well as education quality and citizens’ expectations of education provision.
In a world of globalized information and multiplying social networks, Africa’s growing number of young citizens also ask for better rights and participation. Progress in Participation & Human Rights has been registered, and almost 4 out of 5 of Africa’s citizens (79.6 percent) live in countries that have progressed in this dimension over the past decade.
However, the increased number of free and fair executive elections does not necessarily translate into a better participatory environment. Alarmingly, citizens’ political and civic space in Africa is shrinking, with worsening trends in indicators measuring civil society participation, civil rights and liberties, freedom of expression, and freedom of association and assembly. Also, strong macroeconomic growth over the past decade has failed to translate into progress in Sustainable Economic Opportunity for citizens, namely the extent to which governments enable their citizens to pursue economic goals and provide the opportunity to prosper. While Africa’s combined GDP has increased by almost 40 percent over the past decade,
average progress has been almost null for citizens in Sustainable Economic Opportunity. Even if some countries do manage to register progress, almost half (43.2 percent) of Africa’s citizens live in one of the 25 countries where Sustainable Economic Opportunity has declined over the past 10 years.
The almost stagnant trend then strikes a concerning contrast with demographic growth and youth expectations. Africa’s population has increased by 26 percent over the past 10 years and 60 percent of the continent’s 1.25 billion people are now under the age of 25 years old. A deteriorating business environment and high unemployment, among others, are a huge missed opportunity that could become a recipe for disaster even for the largest African economies. Large unemployed populations are bound to fuel further migration flows or political unrest and shake the stability of countries for years to come.
The IIAG results confirm that governance must be citizen-centered. Common factors among the best-performing countries in Overall Governance are relatively higher scores in the provision of property rights, civil rights and liberties, government accountability, and social welfare policies to their citizens. The index also confirms that Rule of Law and Transparency & Accountability are key pillars of good governance. These
two sub-categories show the strongest relationships with Overall Governance scores. Transparency & Accountability is also key for progress in economic opportunity, being strongly correlated to the Sustainable Economic Opportunity category and the Business Environment sub-category. However, even if recent improvements here are encouraging, Transparency & Accountability performance is still low and needs to be further strengthened.
Africa is at a tipping point. We welcome progress in Overall Governance, but the lost opportunity of the past decade is deeply concerning. Africa has a huge challenge ahead: Its large and youthful potential workforce could transform the continent for the better, but this opportunity is now close to being squandered. Young citizens of Africa currently lack hope, prospects, and opportunities. Their leaders need to invest in education and speed up job creation to sustain progress and stave off potential deterioration, as well as to make sure the voice and expectations of the youth are included in policymaking. The time to act is now.

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