Africa, China and debt: let there be no mistake as to what is at issue here

President XI Jinping has definitely spent his 2018 summer working on Africa. In July, the Chinese president chose Africa as the first international destination since his re-election to a new five-year term, with different stages in Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa – on the occasion of the BRICS summit – and in Mauritius. And this Monday marks the start of the 7th edition of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FCAC) in Beijing which many African heads of state are due to attend.

Some people do not shrink from talking about the “ChinAfrica” summit with the full pejorative connotation the term entails. For several years now, China-Africa relations have been the subject of a dense literature, presenting China as an economic ogre which needs African raw materials to sustain its economic growth. For close to 10 years now, China has overtaken the United States as the African continent’s first trading partner, with nearly $ 170 billion in two-way trade in 2007(four times the trade volume with the United States). Often accused of neo-colonialism, China now faces criticism long directed at Western powers.

Today, the focus is on the debt of African States to China. According to the China Africa Research Institute, African States have at least borrowed $ 132 billion since 2000. This figure must be put into perspective on a continental scale, but scrutinized closely from one country to another, especially as a significant share of the bilateral debt is owed to China. Thus, some statistics clearly point to China’s share of the debt owed by a few countries: 70% in Cameroon, 72% in Kenya and over 80% in Djibouti. Like some Asian countries that are too heavily indebted to Beijing such as Sri Lanka, some African governments are worried about the risk their countries run of losing their sovereignty.

Believing, however, that African leaders are unaware of the problems that may arise from too much financial dependence on Beijing would be naive. It is also important to note that even though many investors are knocking on Africa’s door, African States may still have difficulties borrowing, and China’s financing conditions often remain very attractive. But all countries of the continent need to invest heavily to develop. Each State must find a fair balance among its donors, so as not to be too dependent on a particular country or international institution.

Take Ghana for example.At present, President Akufo-Addo is negotiating a $ 2 billion credit line with China to finance the country’s infrastructure, including roads. At the same time, Ghana is looking for innovative financing mechanisms, choosing to sign a contract with China’s Sino hydro Corp. to provide $ 2 billion in cash to the Ghanaian State in exchange for refined bauxite products. While the opposition denounces this agreement, it has chosen to seek the IMF’s expert opinion or to rely on this Washington D.C. institution’s advice on the impact such a deal could have on Ghana’s debt. Even the Ghanaian State, whose rescue programme ends next April, has chosen to continue working with the IMF to benefit from its supervision. The diversification of donors and maximum use of external advice to continue consolidating public finances is a balanced way for African States to have the most cards in their own hands.

The real issue is therefore not so much the debt owed China as it is the way African countries manage these funds, based on investment decisions that respond to development priorities. For some years now, the African public debt has been upbeat, especially with the commodities crisis. At the end of 2017, the average public debt in sub-Saharan Africa reached 57% of GDP, almost doubling since 2012. Some would still say African countries have a much lower debt than the Western countries, but they are blind to the fundamental differences between their economies and ours, which are often characterized by low tax revenue and lower borrowing rates mobilizing capacity. We owe future generations as we strive to ensure the long-term development of our countries by using a wide range of financing tools. This not only calls for rigorous financial management, but also a minimum political consensus on the type of societies we want to build. The debt we owe China must remain within the scope of our sovereignty.

Tokyo Dispatch: Japan Wants To Become Africa’s Preferred Innovation Partner

“My advice to Japanese firms investing in Africa? Look for the countries where states have created a robust innovation ecosystem,” Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) told Japanese and African public and private sector participants in an informal session on  innovation in Africa, held at the Tokyo UN University on August 2.

“An ‘innovation’ is usually defined as a new product or technology, or significant improvements to an existing product or process.  The key word in there,” Mayaki said, “is ‘significant’. How do African countries grow innovations that change not only the way Africans live and transact, but impact the world at large? Particularly when in most cases, innovation is limited to a single industry or sector – and the state plays at best a minor role in encouraging productivity advances.

Read the full article on Forbes.

High level advocacy for nutrition in Africa

Recognising the debilitating effects of hidden hunger, African governments and stakeholders have over the years been implementing several strategic interventions. Among the interventions are food fortification, dietary diversification, vitamin and mineral supplementation, public health interventions such as deworming and of late, biofortification.

As part of their efforts to promote Food and Nutrition Security for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), organised a one-day high level advocacy event the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) in Cairo, Egypt. During the event, it was noted that increased efforts and support from governments and stakeholders to improve nutrition and food systems are still needed. ‘Embracing food-based approaches including biofortification in national and regional agriculture and nutrition policies, strategies, programmes and investment plans,’ was the theme of this event.

H.E Hon Kone Gognon, Chairperson of the PAP Committee on Agriculture opened the meeting and stressed that the theme for the meeting was pertinent, with a focus on ensuring food and nutrition security. He pointed out that biofortification was already flagged as crucial in Africa.

Speaking on behalf of the FARA Executive Director, Dr Abdulrazak Ibrahim stated that FARA recognises the debilitating effects of hidden hunger, and highlighted FARA’s efforts, over the last years, in mainstreaming FNSSA within the National Agricultural and Innovation System (NAIS). This was echoed by Dr Rose Omari, from FARA’s Building Nutritious Food Basket project, who elucidated the fact that micronutrient deficiency and its consequences are not widely known, asthis is ‘hidden hunger.’ “Therefore,” Dr Omari said, “Enhancing micronutrients content of staple crops during production is a critical intervention.”

Ms Bibi Giyose, Senior Advisor on Nutrition, spoke on behalf of the NEPAD Agency’s CEO, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki. She brought to the fore the fact that nutrition should not be viewed as a technical issue, as it also has political, structural and numerous other dimensions that dictate the need to find multi-sectorial solutions.

Prof Francis Zotor from the University of Health and Allied Sciences and African Nutrition Society, expressed a similar sentiment with a call to strengthen synergies in moving the nutrition agenda forward on the continent.

Present at the event were legislators from the following countries: Central African Republic; Coted’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

It was concluded that while hidden hunger is real, reversing it is also possible. Increasing micronutrient content of commonly consumed foods through biofortification, especially to improve nutritional status of low income households will go a long way in redressing hidden hunger. African Parliamentarians were called upon to follow up on declarations made by governments to ensure their implementation.

NEPAD-JICA annual partnership dialogue

Picture of Dr Mayaki with the President of JICA, Dr Kitaoka.

Via The NEPAD Agency’s website:

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, NEPAD Agency’s CEO, led a delegation to Japan to attend NEPAD-JICA annual dialogue from 28 July to 5 August. The objective of NEPAD-JICA annual partnership dialogue was to discuss the progress made and future plans for further cooperation. The dialogue this year focussed on future joint works towards the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) 7 which will be held in Japan, in 2019.

Several meetings were held with key Japanese institutions with whom the NEPAD Agency has been building strategic partnerships, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Keizai-Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and African Ambassadors in Tokyo- African Diplomatic Corps (ADC), in order to exchange opinions on critical regional issues for development in Africa and further strengthen ties with them. In addition, the TICAD Joint Monitoring Committee was also held during the same week in Tokyo and the NEPAD Agency was invited to attend the meeting as a member of the committee by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

The African Ambassadors in Tokyo, African Diplomatic Corps (ADC) have been proactively involved in the TICAD preparations and continues to work with all stakeholders, in particular with the MOFA and the AU, towards the success of TICAD 7to be held in Yokohama, 2019. TICAD is raising the partnership between Japan and Africa to a new level, with both sides expressing willingness to work together toward the realisation of Agenda 2063. In this regard, the ADC are of the view that the TICAD process should remain an African developmental forum.

At the JICA seminar facilitated by the JICA Senior Vice President for Africa, Mr Hiroshi Kato, Dr Mayaki’s presentation focussed on ‘Africa’s position in the Global Society and Way Forward: Towards the achievement of Agenda 2063.’ Dr Mayaki highlighted the following: Transitions that Africa is going through today; Africa’s different perceptions by thought thinkers and economist; and shaping the future.

The NEPAD-JICA Annual Partnership Dialogue, held at the JICA Head Quarters centred on key commitments and policy priorities identified in the memorandum of cooperation between JICA and NEPAD including the plans for TICAD7. Sectorial Sessions included Infrastructure (water, energy, and corridor developments), the Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa and the Africa Kaizen Initiative.

Other technical working engagements included meetings with Keizai-Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) and Mr Tetsuro Yano, President of the Association of African Economy and Development, where framework of Africa’s Well-being Initiative was discussed. Dr Mayaki delivered a lecture on challenges and prospects of ‘African Business-from Kaizen to Innovation,’ at the UN University. A meeting was also held at the JBIC on investment in Africa.

The next steps will entail implementing the recommendations the annual dialogue in three key areas: regional infrastructure, nutrition (through Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa) and industrialisation (through Kaizen) with regular monitoring of progress towards the next annual meeting in South Africa (2019) and the TICAD 7 in Yokohama.

At a time when BRICS nations affirm their proximity, intra-African trade must be our priority

While the BRICS heads of state (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) are meeting in South Africa for their tenth summit, it seems essential to me to recall why the issue of intra-African trade is crucial if we want to assert ourselves as a continent of equal playing with the other big emerging countries of the South. It is encouraging to see that for the first time in our Pan-African history, we have achieved a major political breakthrough on this subject. In March, 44 African countries signed the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement, a giant leap forward for our continent, whose economic and political integration is still far too weak.

In its latest report on the state of African trade [1], Afreximbank points out that while intra-African trade is worth $ 128.25 billion, up 5.6% between 2016 and 2017, its share in the total volume of the continent’s trade remains weak. In 2017, this share fell to less than 15% of all trade on the continent, amounting to $ 907.63 billion.

However, with the establishment of the CFTA, experts estimate that we can expect a growth of more than 50% in the intra-African trade by 2022. This aspect of African countries’ trade is all the more important to develop that it is often better balanced than our trade outside the continent. Indeed, between 2012 and 2016, intra-African trade consisted of 43% manufactured goods against only 20% to the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, the concrete and effective implementation of the free trade zone of the African continent will not be an easy task. First of all, a signature does not mean ratification, and the agreement will have to go through this stage of ratification in a large number of countries. Moreover, the huge disparities between countries will not fail to cause harmonization difficulties.

But above all, there are still missing signatories! Countries like Nigeria, Namibia, Burundi, and Benin have not yet joined the agreement. Each of these states expresses reluctance due to pressure from certain economic sectors, fearing a sudden increase in competition caused by a CFTA membership. But we must convince the different governments of the importance of joining this project with long-term gains for all. In addition, accompanying measures are planned in the short term to prepare the economic sectors that will be weakened by the agreement.

The road towards the integration of the continent is therefore still long because, despite the advances in the fields of customs and regulation that the CFTA will enable, the obstacles remain numerous. How can one imagine making Africa a free trade zone, with flows that can circulate easily, if the continent is still struggling with its infrastructure deficit? We invest $ 45 billion a year in infrastructures [2], but twice as much is needed. It would indeed be time for the Bank created by the BRICS to take a greater interest in regional infrastructure projects on the continent. In addition, to be able to trade and export, businesses need financing. However, only one-third of African trade is supported by banking institutions, and it is estimated that $ 90 billion of funding demands by African companies are not satisfied.  Finally, this project of a more integrated Africa requires the support of Africans themselves. We need all the forces within our nations, as well as our diasporas, to carry out this project that can change the dimension of our continent in global economic and political affairs.

By uniting as Europeans have done, despite the difficulties they are facing today, we can radically change the weight of Africa in international institutions like the WTO. If the African continent spoke with one voice, our influence would be much stronger than 55 voices trying to be heard on their own. It is only by working together that we can change the course of events and weigh in the affairs of the world, especially in the new forums that give pride to the voices of the South.

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS AFRICA RIGHT UP TO ITS MOST ANCIENT SYMBOLS

In June, the study of a team of researchers published in the journal Nature Plants alerted about the gradual disappearance for a decade of the vast majority of the oldest baobabs in Africa *. Eight of the thirteen older of them are partially or died totally in the past 12 years. A spectacular and very disturbing phenomenon when we know that baobabs are trees that can live for thousands of years.

Africa is the continent with the most baobabs in the world, with a particular concentration in Madagascar. Only on the “red island”, no less than six species of baobabs on the existing nine are identified. The best known is the Adansonia digitata, or African baobab, found in many countries of the continent.

If the gradual disappearance of baobabs does not leave me indifferent, it is because they occupy a special place in African societies. “The tree of life” is sacred to many of our cultures. In West Africa, the baobab is often called the “palaver tree” because of its social function. In many African villages, being under the baobab means gathering and exchanging to solve a problem the community is facing.

Beyond this social function, the baobab also has a central place in the African flora. From a scientific point of view, it is a tree with many virtues and uses: it feeds, offers products of construction, heals … The baobab even serves as a water tank in some cases. In the arid regions of Madagascar where the Mahafaly people live, the inhabitants dig the trunks of the baobabs into rainwater reservoirs. Thanks to this know-how which is transmitted from generation to generation, a baobab-tank can hold up to 9,000 liters of water, enough to cover the water needs of a family for four to five months.

And yet, baobabs are disappearing in Africa, largely because of climate change, according to the researchers. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that it is in southern Africa, a region particularly affected by climate change, that these disappearances of savanna giants have been most often noted.

The death of baobabs speaks volumes about the more global challenges facing Africa. While Africa is the continent that produces the least greenhouse gases, it is also the continent that is the most victim of climate change. In a context where multilateralism is being undermined by national selfishness, African states must succeed in mobilizing the other countries of the world for better global governance in favor of the preservation of the environment and better management of global public goods.

Some African legends say that God gave this strange form to the baobab in order to connect the sky to the earth, thus becoming “the roots of heaven”. But above all, the roots of the baobab are buried in the land of an Africa in full transformation. It is up to us to make sure that despite these great political, economic, cultural and environmental developments, our baobabs remain firmly rooted in African soil, as are our traditions and our culture.

* Nature Plant, “The demise of the largest and oldest African baobabs”, VOL 4, July 2018

Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s centenary and his legacy

As this year marks the centenary of Nelson Mandela, I wish to share with you the ways in which his legacy has influenced our team at NEPAD and the projects that we are conducting.

Nelson Mandela is remembered as an advocate for peace, equality, and freedom. As an individual, he never failed to prove his selflessness and as a leader, he demonstrated his determination to bring change. Very few people have had as much of an impact on history as he did. Most importantly, he has inspired many leaders and institutions. NEPAD is no exception.

The NEPAD Agency was established in 2010, as the technical body of the African Union.  We focus on the strategic development and implementation of the continent’s priority programmes and projects in areas such as education, health, development, and inclusiveness in order to reach Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As Nelson Mandela once said Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. At NEPAD, we firmly believe in this affirmation. Encouraging education is a way of providing the African youth with opportunities to live a healthy life but also to participate in the achievement of a prosperous continent.

In this regard, we have launched a number of initiatives aiming to have an impact your training. Through our Skills Initiative for Africa program, for instance, we are working towards the improvement of education quality, close cooperation with the private sector and the use of innovation six African countries.

With such initiatives, we hope to be getting closer to Mandela’s dream of “a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”.

The legacy of Mandela is also characterized by a strong will to constitute a better and stronger Africa. It was undoubtedly passed down to NEPAD and manifests into our dedication to making breakthroughs in the frontier of development.

Against the backdrop of a changing world and globalization, we have set up programmes that aim at fostering better living conditions – through education or employability – but also free trade, freedom of movement, and infrastructure building. The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is a clear example of our will to promote regional economic integration and tackle low levels of intra-regional economic exchange and participation in the global trade.

I am convinced that through our work we are working together towards the transformation of Africa. We will realize our dream of an African continent whose countries are open both to each other and to the world.

WEST AFRICA BRIEF: Ibrahim Mayaki becomes new SWAC President

The Sahel and West Africa Club’s governing board, also called the Strategy and Policy Group (SPG), convened on 18-19 June 2018 for an important discussion of SWAC’s future work priorities. SWAC Members appointed Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, current Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, as SWAC President. He will assume this function as of 1 January 2019. The SPG was an opportunity for Members and partners to honour current President, François-Xavier de Donnea for his outstanding commitment to the Club for nearly a decade. Members and partners also discussed work priorities for 2019-20. They discussed a draft work programme, which was elaborated based on an inclusive consultation process, reflecting Members’ key priorities and building on current activities and achievements.

Read full article

NEPAD to become the African Union Development Agency

At the recent 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government in Nouakchott, Mauritania, African Heads of State and Government received several reports, including the status of the implementation of the AU Institutional Reforms presented by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. President Kagame is the current chair of the African Union and the champion for the AU Institutional Reforms process.

During the Summit in Nouakchott, a decision was officially taken on the transformation of the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency into the African Union Development Agency.

The Assembly approved the establishment of African Union Development Agency as the technical body of the African Union with its own legal identity, defined by its own statute.  The statute will be developed and presented for adoption at the next AU Summit in January 2019.

The Assembly commended the leadership of Senegalese President, H.E Macky Sall, current Chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee, for reinforcing the credibility of NEPAD that has been acknowledged in the international community, including the G20 and the G7.

The current reforms at the AU are an affirmation by member states of their commitment to the NEPAD Agency as the Union’s own instrument established to champion catalytic support to countries and regional bodies in advancing the implementation of the continent’s development vision – as articulated in the seven aspirations and 20 goals of Agenda 2063.

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency, stated that, “A core aspect of the current reforms is to streamline and improve effectiveness and efficiency in delivery in the implementation of AU decisions, policies and programmes across all AU organs and institutions. In this sense, as the NEPAD Agency is the technical implementation agency of the AU, one specific recommendation in the Kagame report is to transform it into the AU Development Agency. We are enthusiastic about this transformation, which will make it possible to deploy our programmes even more effectively in the service of our continent’s development.”

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.”