South Africa’s Youth Day

It is now 42-years since the memorable day of the Soweto Uprising. Fast forward to 2018, June 16 is annually commemorated as Youth Day in South Africa to recognise the courageous action of these youths, and also remember the souls of those who died in the uprising and the families who carry the direct impact of their loss. What was a day of sorrow, shame and dehumanisation for the nation of South Africa has now been transformed into a celebration of the triumphant and brave South African youth who put their lives on the line to seek justice and register victory that has changed the nation forever.

NEPAD Agency joins South Africa in commemorating Youth Day and embraces the influence inherent in African youth as conduits of democratic, social and economic change. The African Union and its leadership recognise the important role performed by youth in our society that in 2017 the theme for the year focussed on youth – Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth.

Africa has the youngest population in the world, and it continues to grow with estimates indicating that by 2055 the youth population (age 15–24) will double on the continent. We take this opportunity on the occasion of Youth Day in South Africa to emphasise the message of youth inclusion by urging countries across Africa to invest in young men and women and safeguard their human rights, peace and well-being as they are the future leaders of our continent.

It is time to purposefully develop and implement policies that inculcate inclusionist ideas favouring African youth in all spheres of the continent’s development agenda. Success in eliminating diseases that disproportionately affect the continent, ending poverty and achieving zero hunger, as well as repositioning Africa as a frontrunner in the potential of the 4th industrial revolution and emerging technologies relies heavily on how African youth policies are implemented and prioritised.

African youth of today must be given the platforms and opportunities to participate in the development agenda of the continent and shape The Africa We Want. Youth are the real drivers of Agenda 2063 who will live to witness its fruition. The AU recognises youth as key agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development in all areas of African Society. The courageous South African youth of 1976 altered the course of history for their nation, and many others do the same in their locales across Africa today, albeit in different ways, the core of these efforts is to establish a better future for the continent.

To all the African youths today, we encourage you to get involved and bring your contribution to shape our continent together. As Nelson Mandela said, “To the youth of today, I also have a wish to make: be the scriptwriters of your destiny and feature yourselves as stars that showed the way towards a brighter future.”

Intra-continental migration, a windfall for Africa

Could it be that we have missed a fundamental phenomenon structuring the African economies? By focusing the debate on extra-continental migration and its impact on relations between African countries and their partners, we have forgotten that most of the migration from Africa is intra-continental migration. According to a recent UNCTAD report, 19 million people migrate across Africa each year, compared with 17 million to other continents, and 5.5 million migrating from the rest of the world to Africa.

The results of this study go against the current of a pessimistic view of the phenomenon of migration, a vision that usually emphasises imagined problems of assimilation, loss of jobs, the struggle between immigrant populations and locals for public resources, imbalances in the health and welfare systems, cultural friction, etc. There is another picture that emerges here: intra-African migration is an engine of productivity and growth, the transfer of skills, an intensification of trade, industrialisation and investment in the countries of origin.

Countering the argument that immigration leads to competition for jobs, the study highlights the fact that some migrants are answering the call of the leading economic sectors of certain countries where the labour force is drying up. This is the case for education and engineering (Rwanda), financial services (South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda), telecommunications (South Africa, Rwanda), construction (South Africa, Ivory Coast) and mining (South Africa, Gabon), as well as for agriculture (South Africa again, Ivory Coast). These sectors display a demand for all levels of skills and demonstrate that migration largely responds to a demand from the host countries whose supply of labour sometimes struggles to adjust to growth, or to a rapid transformation of their economic structure.

As for integration through work, this is accelerated for migrants in a market that allows them to develop skills that they would not have had access to in their countries of origin. Farmers with low skills in Burkina Faso have been able to gain new ones and thus gain access to better paid jobs than would have been the case had they stayed at home. It is also thanks to this increase in skills that the macroeconomic equilibriums, far from being destabilised by the arrival of new populations, are reinforced in the host country, as well as in the countries of origin. This is an incentive and a message for some African countries that are still too cautious in their management of African migration.

In the host country, better pay results in increased consumption of local products, or of products imported from the country of origin (“the nostalgia trade”). Migrants from the DRC and Zimbabwe in the period 2000-2013 generated growth in food imports from these two countries, from 100,000 to 650,000 dollars for the DRC and from 100,000 to one million dollars for Zimbabwe. In this respect, migrants constitute an economic link between the countries of origin and the host countries, and a singularly effective engine of growth in exports from their country of origin.

The increase in their pay means they also contribute to an increase in local consumption and to the tax revenues (taxes and duties) of the national economy. The idea that the arrival of new populations would destabilise the social equilibrium is also invalidated by this observation. And, thanks to the money sent back from the diasporas to their countries of origin, a transfer of capital between countries is taking place, and there is also a contribution to the social systems of the countries of origin.

All the benefits of this phenomenon of intra-African migration no longer need proving. The challenge to be faced is now in the hands of the African countries, some of which have already started to adapt their legislation to support this movement, even if others have not yet understood the benefits they could derive from it. But migrations, which are a component of our continent, will see their positive effects increased thanks to the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and a pan-African passport. The harmonisation of standards, the disappearance of customs barriers, the free movement of people and capital are all mechanisms that can boost migration in a unified market across the whole continent.

Africa’s Critical Choices: coming soon

I would like to inform you that a new book I have written will soon be published, first in French and then in English. It is called “Africa’s critical choices”.

This book is a dear project I have had for a long time. It is addressed to the generation that will take up positions of responsibility in Africa in the next two decades.

It is intended both as a warning and a guide, a message to those who will have to deal with the period of critical changes Africa is facing, be they economic, demographic or political.

It is at the same time a feedback, a diagnosis and a plea. And, I hope, a frank, original and lucid examination of what we managed so far and what we could do better in the future.

This is also a book I want to dedicate to the  women and men who have put so much energy in keeping the pan-African ideal alive.

I now hope that you will enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Africa Day

“Let us all unite and celebrate together

The victories won for our liberation

Let us dedicate ourselves to rise together

To defend our liberty and unity…”

That is how the African Union anthem starts.

Today, the 25th of May, all of us Africans on the continent and in the diaspora join together to celebrate Africa Day. We therefore take this opportunity to convey the best wishes from the NEPAD Agency to all Africans across all corners of the world.

Wherever we may be, we should be proud of our identity as Africans, treasure our traits and traditions and exhibit the spirit of Ubuntu, with what Hausas call Mutunci.

On this day, let us pause to embrace our economic opportunities and to reflect on what it means to achieve the aspirations of Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want! Thus we shall be able to answer the question as to whether we are on the right path towards the dawn of a new day for Africa and her people.

May we continue to wisely learn from lessons of the past, build on current progress and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available, and facilitate free movement of Africans on their Continent.

I wish everyone a happy and peaceful Africa Day.

Africa and the debt trap

In its latest “Economic Outlook” for Africa published on 7 December last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) does not hide its scepticism about the evolution of the African economies. The average growth forecast for the zone is certainly rising, however, going from 2.8% in 2017 to 3.34 in 2018. Africa is benefiting mainly from the recovery in commodity prices and the timid recovery of global growth thanks to better access to international markets.

Nonetheless, as long as debt growth remains above GDP growth, the fiscal position of African countries will only deteriorate. The IMF therefore considers that out of the 35 countries in the zone, 15 of them are in debt crisis or are in the process of becoming over-indebted. This situation is all the more worrying because some of the international donors are somewhat cold about the idea of buying African debt while some countries have disappointed with regard to the transparency of their management of public debt.

Today, history is repeating itself: the countries most affected are those that have built their growth mainly on the export of raw materials, hydrocarbons or minerals. With falling prices, national currencies have collapsed, making debt repayment more difficult. So much so that servicing of the debt absorbs up to 60% of the public revenues of certain countries. This means a lot of money lost for key sectors such as education, health and infrastructure: the only type of spending that will prepare our countries for the demographic challenge ahead.

We sometimes hear about that the level of African debt is not as high as it is in Western countries, for example, and that Africa has therefore no reason to make special budgetary efforts. This ignores two elements specific to African countries: firstly, the feeble capacity to mobilise tax revenues given the predominant weight of the informal sector in our economies as well as the limits our administrations experience in coping with multiple tax evasions, and secondly, the rates at which we borrow are much less advantageous than those enjoyed by Western countries.

The IMF stresses that despite the significant progress made over the last 20 years, Sub-Saharan Africa still has the lowest revenue-to-GDP ratio in the world. Its median level was 18% in 2016, i.e. five percentage points lower than other emerging or developing countries. The IMF is still repeating what we have known for a long time: Sub-Saharan African countries must and can increase their tax revenues by three to five percent of GDP. This amount would be much higher than that received annually by the region in international aide, which, in any case, is shrinking dramatically or is focused on security aspects related to terrorism and migration.

There is no miracle solution to the debt trap. In order to consider the development of a country in the long term, we need to build inclusive and sustainable growth based on three pillars: rigorous fiscal management; a significant increase in tax revenue; a strengthening of the attractiveness to foreign investors. The solutions are known, but they require political courage and an ability not to give in to short-term measures. Here begins the economic independence of our continent: be careful not to make the mistakes that have cost us dear in the past.

Mo Ibrahim Forum 2018 – Roundtable on Public Services in Africa

I was delighted to participate to the Mo Ibrahim Forum 2018’s roundtable on Public Services in Africa. Here is the link.

The 2018 Ibrahim Forum focused this year on public services in 21st century Africa: their key relation to good governance and effective leadership, new challenges and current shortcomings, the ways and means to strengthen them and make them appealing to the next generation.

 

Africa needs to reform public sector to ensure effective service delivery

Africa needs to reform its public service for effective service delivery to citizens, officials and experts said at a panel session on Saturday.

“We must address African public sector challenges adequately through reforms to ensure economic growth and accelerate development,” said Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Agency

“The public sector is a key component of the economy, and it plays a major role in economic growth and development of any country. If Africa ignores its public sector, the continent won’t achieve its development agenda,” he said.

Dr Mayaki was speaking at a panel session of the Ibrahim Governance Weekend in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. The Ibrahim Governance Weekend is the flagship event of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, held every year in a different African country.

This three-day event convenes prominent African political and business leaders, representatives from civil society, multilateral and regional institutions as well as Africa’s major international partners to debate issues of critical importance to Africa.

The weekend begins with a Leadership Ceremony, where this year the event welcomed and celebrated the 2017 Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.

Dr Mayaki, who is also the former prime minister of Niger, emphasised that service delivery in Africa is still slow despite the fact that some governments have put in much effort to ensure that citizens access public goods and services.

“The whole of Africa’s public sector needs an overhaul in order to have that one that is delivering to its promise,” said Jennifer Musisi, executive director of the Kampala City Authority, Uganda.

“The mandate of the public sector is to improve the general welfare of society by delivering efficient and effective services to citizens, but this is lacking among African governments,” remarked Herman Mashaba, mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Poor management of finances, high levels of nepotism, corruption, incompetent public servants, lack of accountability, poor human resources practices, and a lack of leadership have taken toll in the Africa’s public sector,” he noted.

The three-day event held by Mo Ibrahim Foundation kicked off in Kigali, which convenes prominent African political and business leaders, representatives from civil society, multilateral and regional institutions as well as Africa’s major international partners to debate issues of critical importance to Africa, according to organisers.

Established in 2006, the non-grant making organisation focuses on defining, assessing and enhancing governance and leadership in Africa through its four main initiatives including Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Ibrahim Forum, Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership and Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships.

Source: Adapted from Xinhuanet.com

Why nutrition should top the pan-African agenda

As we gather in Dakar for the Initiative for Food and Nutrition in Africa (IFNA), I would like to state the utmost importance of nutrition for Africa. Without optimum nutrition there will be no engine for growth and development.

IFNA is an initiative that resonates with what I believe can be a “business unusual” for real contribution to improved nutrition in Africa. Finally the shocking statistics can start and continue to decline significantly and sustainably.

I would like to re-affirm NEPAD’s commitment to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, and further confirm our continued political and technical support through dedicated policy and programme instruments.

Hunger and malnutrition is one of the most urgent development challenges and most countries are burdened by more than one form of malnutrition – stunting, wasting, underweight, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight or obesity. These forms may co-exist within the same country, household or individual. Nutrition is one of the high priority areas for NEPAD and the African Union.

The joint focus by the AU and NEPAD on the nutrition agenda dates back several decades ago. At the AU, the Department of Social Affairs, the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, and the Department of Economic Affairs there remains palpable urgency to address the scourge of hunger and malnutrition. To this end, key policy and strategic instruments include the Africa Regional Nutrition Strategy (ARNS), the Pan African Nutrition Initiative (PANI), the Framework for African Food Security (FAFS under CAADP), and the Ten Year Strategy for the Reduction of Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies.

NEPAD has also since 2005, had a strategic implementation framework with flagship programmes that include for example Home Grown School Feeding, Food Fortification including Biofortification, and Maternal and Child Nutrition. Of course policy advocacy and capacity building are important cross cutting areas that NEPAD addresses in support of the core programmatic and project focus.

I am delighted to share that NEPAD this past week, kick started the process to revise and revamp its Food Systems and Nutrition Security Strategy in support of integrated regional approaches while paying particular attention to national contexts. The revised strategy will be pragmatic in terms of the ever elusive “how” to deliver effective actions in a multisectoral fashion, with coherence, speed and sustained momentum. This effort is also in recognition that the CAADP agenda which enshrines nutrition, is now since Malabo, more about agricultural transformation and strengthened food systems – which goes beyond just the National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs).

On another note, we in Africa, across all the countries here represented have excellent biodiversity, and a rich heritage to adequately feed and nourish ourselves and even the world. Our indigenous and traditional foods are amazing and valuable nutritionally. The potential is immense. However as we are constantly reminded, people do not eat potential, but rather they need real nutritious food, in real time to solve real current problems.

In many ways, I trust that IFNA will help us make a dent in changing the current dismal nutrition situation and fill the wide nutrition gap. Undeniably, we need a “people centered nutrition” where those afflicted are also active participants in seeking and delivering solutions.

Ending poverty, hunger and malnutrition must become the basis of a new social contract in which no one is left behind as per the aspirations of Agenda 2063. It is also an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

We urgently need a rethinking of our agriculture, food systems and governance for meeting current and future food and nutrition challenges in Africa.

The food systems and nutrition challenges faced by countries are complex, and their solutions require multi-pronged approaches plus a strong and sustained political leadership.

I am convinced that through IFNA this is the right moment for working harder and smarter than ever before towards important nutrition objectives.

World Malaria Day

Malaria is still a real threat to global health. Specialists say mortality related to the disease has dropped by 60% since 2000, but there is still much to be done. In 2016, 445,000 people died. 91% of those deaths occurred in Africa. I would like to share with you this series of articles from Le Monde Afrique that highlights the difficult access to treatments and resistance of mosquitoes to insecticides.

Crédit photo : Un volontaire teste le « Faso Soap », un savon anti-paludisme, le 4 novembre 2016 à Ouagadougou au Burkina Faso. CRÉDITS : NABILA EL HADAD / AFP