A view from Gambia

Earlier this month I had the privilege to address a Ministerial Cabinet retreat of The Gambia. Some of you might recall that The Gambia was embroiled in a serious political impass between December 2016 and January 2017, and as you may remember the then president conceded defeat then changed his mind. Such an action if left unchecked could have culminated into a massive civil and political unrest in The Gambia with a potential spill-over into the neighbouring countries of Senegal and Guinea Bissau.

Certainly some level of divine intervention together with a well-coordinated approach by ECOWAS and the United Nations- potential disastrous ramifications of the former president’s actions was totally averted, and now The Gambia has set out an agenda to unify its people and re-ignite the economy and so on.

My address to President Adam Barrow of The Gambia and his cabinet, highlighted the principles of governance amongst others. But more specifically, I underscored the need for the president and his team of cabinet ministers to serve the people of The Gambia by providing and guaranteeing their security, protecting their welfare, meeting their basic needs, increasing their wellbeing and protecting the weak and vulnerable. Governments must do those things that give the people confidence, contentment, happiness and hope. My advice to them was that they must respond to the needs of their people for education and skills development, health, employment and social protection.

A responsible government must create the space to allow people to participate freely in the processes of governance. I emphasised to President Barrow that he and his team must build and maintain strong institutions of democracy and ensure that they strictly observe the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Furthermore, I sited the Singapore experience and also noted the significant strides that Rwanda is undertaking with regards to economic transformation and attracting private investments.

I concluded my address to the Gambian Cabinet by encouraging them to have a regional approach to doing things and I asked them to reflect deeply on where does The Gambia want to fit in Africa’s transformative agenda. And how quickly is the political leadership ready to establish a road map to achieving such a vision.

 

Africa poised for greatness — but governments must act fast

I am sharing an excellent article from Carlos Lopes on how Africa is underestimated :

Conventional wisdom tells us that the Chinese are buying up Africa faster than any other investors. It tells us that African banking lags in terms of innovation and reliability and that no African country is at the forefront of global innovation.

But conventional wisdom is often wrong and it is important to recognise that we don’t have the Africa we think we have.

What do I mean? Perhaps we can start by noting that China is actually only Africa’s third-biggest investor. The second? France. India is hot on its heels too. If that surprises you, wait until you learn that more than 50% of the world’s mobile banking happens on the continent, with Kenya taking the lion’s share globally.

MORE THAN 50% OF THE WORLD’S MOBILE BANKING HAPPENS ON THE CONTINENT, WITH KENYA TAKING THE LION’S SHARE

I enjoy these kinds of shock statistics, most recently sharing them with an audience of South African Institute of International Affairs members during an address on “World changes affecting Africa”, a talk I have also given to UN leaders, Chatham House and African Union foreign ministers.

Full article here

AFR100.org: Celebrating commitments to restore more than 75 million hectares of land across Africa

Johannesburg, May 18 – The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) launched a new web platform today – AFR100.org – to celebrate and advance the efforts of 22 African countries that have committed to restore more than 75 million hectares of degraded and deforested land.

The new site, available in English and French, gives visitors unprecedented access to knowledge and information about restoration efforts in the sub-Saharan countries. Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent in the world – more than 700 million hectares of degraded land, or an area the size of Australia. This degraded land can be restored to forests or mosaic landscapes that are a mix of trees and agriculture, providing many benefits.

AFR100 is a country-led partnership to restore degraded and deforested land in Africa. AFR100 and its web platform AFR100.org respond to the African Union mandate to bring 100 million hectares into restoration by 2030. The initiative was launched in 2015 by the NEPAD Secretariat, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via GIZWRI, and the World Bank. AFR100 is supported by funds from BMZ and the World Bank and was established as part of the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative, and contributing to the global commitments of the Bonn Challenge and New York Declaration on Forests.

Mamadou Diakhite, AFR100 Secretariat Manager at NEPAD Agency announced the launch of AFR100.org: “This website will provide our partners and online visitors with a vast amount of immediate, easy-to-navigate content detailing the exciting restoration work taking place across the continent.

“This includes beautiful photographs and in-depth information prepared by the AFR100 member countries who take pride in their restoration efforts.”

Through AFR100, national governments, public and private sector partners, international development programs and local communities will restore productivity to deforested and degraded landscapes to improve livelihoods.

Wanjira Mathai, co-chair of the Global Restoration Council and chairperson of the Green Belt Movement, said: “The importance of AFR100 to the daily lives of communities across Africa cannot be overestimated.

“I am moved by the countries that have already committed to transforming their landscapes and securing the future for generations to come.”

Sean DeWitt, Director of the Global Restoration Initiative at World Resources Institute (WRI) added: “The site reflects the high level of commitment from member countries of the AFR100 partnership, and will enable partners to share experiences and good practices, as well highlighting the work of restoration champions from across the continent.”

The new site complements related tools and resources found at InfoFLR.org, as well as the websites of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, and the World Bank among others.

NOTES TO EDITORS 

Information on AFR100:

AFR100 (the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) is a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes across Africa into restoration by 2030. The initiative connects political partners—participating African nations—with technical and financial support to scale up restoration on the ground and capture associated benefits for food security, climate change resilience, and poverty alleviation. The initiative was launched in 2015 during the margins of COP 21 in Paris. AFR100 contributes to the Bonn Challenge, the New York Declaration on Forests and Sustainable Development Goal 15.

Media contacts:

Teko Nhlapo, Communication & Advocacy, Sustainable Land Management at NEPAD Agency, tekoh@nepad.org and +2783 596 8752

Natasha Ferarri, Communications Officer, Global Restoration Initiative at WRI, Natasha.Ferrari@wri.org and +447788594911

 

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Twitter:@AFR100_Official.

African states and climate disruptions

Every region in the world is affected by climate change but Africa is still the most exposed continent. According to the 2015 climate change vulnerability index, seven of the ten countries that are under the highest threat, are located in Africa.

It is an unfair and ironic situation considering that the African continent only plays a minimal role in triggering the climate crisis. But this is the reality: the challenge of climate change is far more intense in Africa than elsewhere, because of the fragility of its food-processing system and economic model.

It is a dreadful observation but populations that are the most remote from globalisation, both in terms of responsibility and simple geography, are its first victims.
Africa suffers from climate warming that is 1,5 time higher than global average, with many worrying consequences. Its ecosystem, which is already weakened, makes the African continent less resilient to potential climate shocks, even though the frequency, intensity and length of external phenomena – droughts, flooding and others – are more intense.

These disruptions are a direct threat to agriculture and livestock farming, key economic sectors and food security. Ultimately, millions of people may lose their means of subsistence.

The urgency of addressing the challenges of climate change imposes a dual approach: reducing the causes and adapting to the consequences.

It is difficult for African countries to reduce their emissions:  those produced by the continent’s rare industries are negligible compared to those of our planet’s high polluters.

The African continent as a whole distributes 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, against 24% for China and 13% for the United States.
Adapting is an absolute priority but it has a cost. Today, it is estimated between 7 and 15 billion dollars a year and it will increase to 35 billion by 2040. Is the international community ready to increase its financial support to help Africa? There is a risk that the continent will go back to the starting point… having to face the devastating effects, in every sense of the word, of change climate.

Of course, there have been a few philanthropic initiatives from across the world to help the African people but the funding that has been granted turns out to be clearly insufficient.

Africa is therefore left on its own and has no other choice than to adapt. Paradoxically, this could prove to be an opportunity. African countries need to regroup and mutually learn from their experiences in order to adopt new approaches and develop new and more efficient strategies.

The continent needs to review its development model. It needs to plan and implement concrete adaptation measures, strengthen its resilience, review its food system, implement green economies that can resist to climate change, improve climate monitoring and meteorology. It is also an opportunity for African political and economic players to unite and adopt a common position in international negotiations in order to get adequate technical and financial support.

The future of investment in Africa

The Annual AVCA Conference, held between the 3rd and the 7th of April in Abidjan, provided the private equity and venture capital industry with an important platform to discuss the most pertinent investment opportunities and issues in Africa. For the continents’ biggest investors, investment into infrastructure remained a priority. This makes senses as Africa remains underserved in this area. The UN’s Economic Commission for Africa reports that although governments are keen to build new infrastructure, they still lack the ability to develop proposals needed to attract institutional investors.

The report stipulates that of the total $2 trillion raised globally for infrastructure projects, only $59 billion was received in Africa. This sum represents just 3%. In the promotion of investment into projects and specific sectors, many States still suffer from the poor quality of their ‘signature’ due to the lack of substantial financial resources.

There is some reason to remain positive, investments went well in 2016. Private equity players invested $3.8 billion in 145 deals across Africa last year with a range of businesses from agriculture and energy to healthcare and financial sectors. But over and above gaining support from foreign and multilateral partners, African countries will also need to develop domestic financial capital market instruments for infrastructure. It has become imperative for Africa to bridge the gap between individuals with very high liquidity on one hand, and a private sector and States that struggle to finance themselves, on the other. A doubling of domestic saving available on the continent would bring Africa into line with other emerging regions and would provide at least 250 billion dollars (about 180 billion euros).

Is it not time then to move away from relying on taxes and uneven commodity revenue to look into pension funds to back infrastructure projects? Even in countries where there has been pension reform there is a still a dearth of financial instruments which limits the ability to use pension funds to back infrastructure projects in the first place. The role of the State is fundamental in inventing the necessary instruments to reinject the funds mobilized into the real economy.

Channeling remittances to create diaspora bonds can help play an important role in plugging the development gap. Nigeria is the world’s fifth biggest destination for international remittances with 5 million Nigerians living abroad and sending money back to relatives, according to Western Union. Nigeria plans to raise 300 dollars by selling diaspora bonds, issued in June 2017, targeting Nigerians living abroad.

The challenge is to make each citizen a full-fledged investor contributing to the development of his country. Success stories already thrive in the area of collective management with the recent launch of initiatives promoted by private actors (Amethis West Africa, for example, is the first investment fund registered in Côte d’Ivoire) or public actors (in Rwanda, Agaciro Development Fund aims to capture the saving of migrants).

We must not underestimate the place of innovation in contributing to the prosperity of the financial industry. It is not unusual for state projects to serve as “guinea pigs” before reaching the local private sector. After all, the Renaissance Dam, the most important in Africa, kick-started with the funding provided by the Ethiopians.

How African trade and migration are shaping globalization

Globalization is not simply a process that started in the last two decades or even the last two centuries. It has a history that stretches thousands of years and Africa has been at the heart of international trade for far longer than we imagine. From the trans-Saharan caravans and the triangular trade, from the colonial counters to the Coltan of the Kivu, the continent has lived at the pace of the different periods of globalization, without always being in a position to influence or control, let alone take advantage of, global transactions.

Whether one thinks globalization is a “good thing” or not, it is an essential element of the economic history of mankind. According to Amartya Sen, Nobel-Prize winning economist, globalization “has enriched the world scientifically and culturally, and benefited many people economically as well”. Those more skeptical about globalization associate it uniquely with free market policies and an increase in inequality levels. It is true that Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, has lagged behind other regions in the spread of the global economy, and the overwhelming majority of Africans have not benefited from the purported promises of global prosperity.

But globalization also encompasses the exchange of commerce, culture, ideas, information, people. Global networks have created opportunities for nations and communities to operate on a much larger scale worldwide. Previously disparate locations on the globe are now linked into extensive systems of communication, migration, trade and interconnections. This very phenomenon also makes it possible for emerging countries to strengthen their local and independent identities while working to be part of larger transnational alliances.

In this context, what are the questions that Africa needs to ask itself in order to propel itself to a more proactive actor in globalization?

Trade deals need to show that nations are open for business by putting people’s interests, not just corporate interests, at their heart. What must we put in place to resolve the tensions between democracy, the nation state and global economic integration?

A key feature of globalization is connectivity, as illustrated by the expansion of marine and terrestrial fibre optic cables. This offers unprecedented broadband infrastructure and opportunities to master the digital revolution. How will technologies, central to Africa’s economic and social lives, empower African populations?

Africa has the potential to develop a particular model of globalization. This model is the more pertinent in a world context coloured by the British vote to exit the European Union and the result of the recent US presidential election. The latter events are a symptom of popular disenchantment with globalization and a desire for the reactionary raising of national barriers. On the other hand, Africans continue to be outward-looking. In this context, the phenomenon of south-south migration constitutes an important capital for the continent. Can we redefine migration dynamics away from the binary brain drain / brain gain debate into one of holistic continental development?

Globalisation is not a zero-sum game. It is a two-way traffic involving a historical process of border crossings and hybridization and everyone should benefit from it. There is space yet for Africa, through a particular and renewed set of global transactions, to positively influence the direction that globalization will take in the future.

The Inaugural African Economic Platform will strengthen common policies

A new structure to strengthen the South-South economic and political axis was launched in Mauritius last month. The inaugural African Economic Platform (AEP), an Agenda 2063 programme, was attended by the Chairperson of the African Union, several Prime Ministers and high profile personalities of the continent. The AEP is an initiative driven by Africans to provide the policy space for Africans across all key sectors, to set their own agenda, explore realistic continental and global opportunities, and ways of implementing this agenda. Organized by the African Union Foundation, the African Economic Platform is an event to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of African economies and to identify opportunities in various sectors.

The AEP created an avenue for dialogue amongst a range of sectors, including the African political leadership, business leaders in the private sector, universities and intellectuals. All these different stakeholders are critical to driving the economic transformation agenda. The private sector plays a key role in investment, industrialisation and intra-African trade. The higher education sector provides skills development and are the locus for research and innovation. Governments ensure the implementation of fiscal and macro-economic policies and other environments for economic transformation.

The idea for an Africa focused economic platform originated from the need to ensure that annual meetings among African policy makers and regional business leaders do serve the top priorities in Africa’s drive for development and growth. The launch focused on the employment challenges arising from the skills gap witnessed by the disconnect between Africa’s industry requirements for economic growth and the output from academia. The need to develop an integrated African economy to enable the continent to realise its potential for stronger competitiveness in the global economy was also at stake. The outcome of the inaugural AEP, which focused on South-South cooperation, a commitment to Made in Africa and intra-African trade, bodes well for the continent.

At this launch Forum, measurable short to medium term milestones were set in relation to the promotion of intra-Africa trade through the food and agricultural products that the continent produces: livestock, poultry, fish, seafood, among others. Strategies were developed following the conference, including the establishment of a joint standing committee to facilitate trade relations; to remove the obstacles to the movement of goods and services; and to promote joint efforts among African financial centers to facilitate investment. Africa needs USD 200 billion annually over the next four years to reach its targets, while Foreign Direct Investment is USD 60 billion a year. Air connectivity was also reviewed, with the development of a master plan for the African continent in the pipeline.

The AEP launch was a meeting of great minds to discuss how the continent can harness its vast resources to enhance the development of the African people. It is now time to come forward with concrete plans to accelerate investment and competitiveness in Africa. NEPAD has already been active on the front of Human Skills Capital Development through its Skills Initiative for Africa Programme, launched this April. Leveraging the potential of the African Diaspora to participate in and advocate for Africa’s integration and development is a point we will take up next week.

The spectre of recolonisation

Among the many challenges facing Africa, there is one that cuts across them all and with painful echoes of our recent history, the possible recolonization of the continent. There has been a disturbing sense that foreign actors are taking hold of the assets and the growth of the continent. This fear is multifaceted, there is the fear of not being able to respond to the challenges of 21st Century Africa in autonomous fashion, the fear that it is the last chance to give the continent a push with the help of international partners, and simultaneously it is felt that this is the moment to stop the depletion of Africa’s natural resources. This fear, which is more or less rational and justified, translates a crisis of confidence creating doubt as to the basis for a clear pathway to sustained and long term development.

This state of affairs is dangerous because it can lead to withdrawal. We have recently seen a number of African countries threaten to leave the ICC. The ICC was founded with the idealistic goal of trying the perpetrators of the world’s worst atrocities and premised on the idea that nations must work in harmony. But the perception that the Court has been targeting Africa, at a time when the continent is asserting its political and economic independence, has not been well received. Mistrust is settling in, not the least from Uganda in the case of Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan Rebel Leader abducted as a child. The ICC is going through an existential crisis and the outcome of this case will set an important precedent for international criminal justice and determine the allegiance of African countries.

The question of recolonization also arises through the presence of the United States, China, India, France, Britain, Germany, Japan on the continent, powerful countries which all have important and increasingly competitive stakes on our lands. China, in particular, has a strong presence on the continent, with one million Chinese nationals and a burgeoning economic presence in Africa. Chinese capital investment into Africa, up to July 2016, had increased by 515% from full-year 2015 figures with more than $14bn invested in Africa by Chinese companies. China acquires the raw materials like oil, iron, copper and zinc that it urgently needs to fuel its own economy but builds and improves infrastructure such as roads, railways and telecom systems which are necessary to Africa’s manufacturing sector. This can be a win-win situation only if Africa governments are in a position to negotiate the deals in a way that makes financial, legal and economic sense for their respective countries.

In our dealings with foreign countries, there has often been a weak enforcement of environmental laws to our detriment, through illegal logging depleting our woodlands, unregulated and overfishing of our seas by other countries and the poaching of protected species of animals. Growing multinational investments in industrial plantations are also contributing to deforestation. Are we still supplying goods such as cocoa, sugar and tea to the West to the detriment of our own environment? Is the abundance of land, lax regulations and cheap labour, that we are too easily prepared to trade off, working against our ability to determine our own destiny?

The independence we acquired around 50 years ago requires ongoing nurturing in the tough questions we need to ask ourselves over the price we are willing to pay for accelerated development.

 

 

International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda 7 April 2017

In making strides towards the goal of transforming our continent into “The Africa We Want” – a peaceful, strong and united Africa, reflection on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda reminds us that we cannot take our peace and security for granted.

Current and past events in African and around the world, as evidenced by the high number of people displaced by war, conflict or persecution, which now stands at almost 60 million, builds a strong case for prevention of conflict to come to the fore in all that we do. Prevention has become an essential aspect of foreign policy due to the nature of today’s conflicts, their growing complexity and the fact that conflicts are more intra-state than inter-state. Moreover, the presence of powerful non-state actors and violent extremisms all make it necessary to strengthen early warning and preventive diplomacy mechanisms.

On the African continent, efforts for peace are on the increase, as demonstrated by an ever growing number of peaceful transitions of power, with recent examples being Nigeria, Ghana, Cape Verde, to mention but a few.  At the beginning of the 1990s, there were approximately thirty ongoing conflicts, but now they have been reduced to about a dozen. In addition, we are also witnessing Africa’s integration through regional and continental efforts, under a direct manifestation of the “ownership principle” that is the cornerstone of an African prevention and development policy embedded in the African Union.

Reflecting on Rwanda today, the words of Wole Soyinka ring true:

“Given the scale of trauma caused by the genocide, Rwanda has indicated that however thin the hope of a community can be, a hero always emerges. Although no one can dare claim that it is now a perfect state, and that no more work is needed, Rwanda has risen from the ashes as a model of truth and reconciliation.”

Together with Africa’s 1.2 billion people, the NEPAD Agency commemorates the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, in order to eventually see a continent where all guns are silenced, a continent in which its people flourish in a culture of human rights, democracy, gender equality, inclusion and peace.