Infrastructure, agriculture, tuberculosis: a week in New York focused on action

I would like to share with you some impressions from New York, where I went to represent the NEPAD Agency at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. This week was rich in events and exchanges. My meeting with Rodger Voorhies, Executive Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provided an opportunity to discuss the programme for accelerating agricultural growth in Africa, led by the NEPAD Agency, and to reflect on partnership opportunities around the AATS project (Africa Agriculture Transformation Scorecard – the “evaluation sheets for agricultural transformation in Africa”). The meeting with Dr Andrew Steer, President of the World Resource Institute, which is collaborating with the NEPAD Agency on the AFR100 programme to restore 111 million hectares of arable land in Africa by 2030, provided an opportunity to review the progress of this strategic partnership. Finally, the deepening of the dialogue between the NEPAD Agency and the UNDP Regional Bureau in Africa was at the heart of my warm exchanges with the institution’s new Executive Director, Ahunna Eziakonwa.

Our continent, Africa, received a special tribute in New York. This 73rd session of the General Assembly was dedicated to the memory of our most inspiring leader, Nelson Mandela, whose centenary we were celebrating. After the African Union, which honoured “Madiba” at the Nouakchott summit on 1 and 2 July, it was therefore the United Nations’ turn to invoke the legacy of the father of the South African nation: the General Assembly proclaimed the decade 2019-2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade for Peace. Mandela has become a universal symbol, transcending borders, continents and times. This is obviously a source of pride for all Africans.

We can and must set an example: against a pessimistic discourse that tends to present our continent as one of crises, how can we not point out that one of the best recent news for peace has come from Africa: the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which have decided to overcome their territorial disputes to put an end to a 20-year-old conflict. This news opens up prospects for the relaunch of regional integration, which has been boosted by the creation of the ZLEC, the Continental Free Trade Area. The ZLEC will be a long process, but it is already emerging as a tangible manifestation of the pan-African ideal. The President of Rwanda and current Chairman of the African Union, Paul Kagame, rightly recalled this in his speech to the UN tribune….

But African integration will require infrastructure and, in this regard, a crucial meeting on their financing was organized at the initiative of NEPAD on 25 September in New York’s Nasdaq. Our agency coordinates the participation of the private sector in the major structuring projects of PIDA (Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa). This meeting made it possible to raise awareness and mobilize the African and international financial sectors. We encourage African pension funds to spend at least 5% of their investment portfolio (which amounts to $1.1 trillion) on infrastructure, including through PPPs. We must be exemplary if we want to be supported by our international partners!

The NEPAD Agency is also fully engaged in the fight against tuberculosis, which killed 2.6 million Africans in 2016. The high-level meeting “United to Stop Tuberculosis: A Continental Response”, which we organized on 25 September, enabled African governments, their partners and major donors to renew their commitment to combat this scourge through multilateral cooperation. We are convinced that only a continental and multidimensional response, closely involving all actors, public and private, and populations, is relevant to finding a solution to this tragedy.

But it is also necessary to be able to respond to emergencies and health crises that transcend borders. This was the subject of the second humanitarian dialogue organized under the aegis of the NEPAD Agency on 28 September in New York, as part of its Move Africa initiative, which aims to establish corridors to accelerate and facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations.

All these initiatives reflect the will of the African Union and the NEPAD Agency to take the most concrete action possible to create the foundations for a better future for our continent. We will come back to this later.

Winning the War on Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis continues to kill millions around the world each year, especially in Africa. Eradicating the disease is possible, but only if African governments begin developing a multi-sector, integrated approach to containing and controlling it.

JOHANNESBURG – The world is finally waking up to the threat posed by one of the most overlooked diseases of our time. Last month, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) hosted the first-ever high-level meeting on tuberculosis (TB) to explore options for international eradication efforts. But, as welcome as this new global focus is, the fact remains that the road to beating TB begins in Africa.

Read full article here

Africa must look to Eisenhower for inspiration

Extraordinary challenges demand radical thinking. The US, home to the world’s most developed road system, had no proper national system of freeways until the 1950s. The only reason the land of free enterprise engaged in road building on such an unprecedented scale was that the state mandated it.

Through the landmark Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower directed massive spending on roads and other infrastructure, giving birth to a transport network that to this day is a cornerstone of the US economy.

Full article on Financial Time here

What to do about infant mortality in Africa?

While infant mortality is declining worldwide, progress in this area still lefts much to be desired, and particularly in Africa. According to the latest joint report by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank, another 6.3 million children died worldwide last year, nearly half of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. This figure should be compared with the 14.3 million child deaths recorded worldwide in 1990 but it only highlights the fact that Africa did not progress much. It reflects the shortcomings that still exist in terms of access to emergency care, to difficult maternity units, to basic medicines and also in terms of compliance with basic hygiene rules.

It is worth noting that in the same period, global GDP in purchasing power parity (in constant 2011 dollars) increased from $47.199 billion to $112.261 billion, representing a 2.37-fold increase in global wealth in 28 years. The correlation between rising living standards and falling infant mortality is a two-way street. Lower infant mortality results in a larger working population and increased national production. This good result also reflects a consistent application of measures to improve people’s living comfort, and is explained in particular by a well-managed demographic transition.

Indeed, there is empirically a higher infant mortality rate in societies with more children, because it stretches sparse financial and medical resources, resulting in less resources for each child. For the same income, the concentration of resources on a smaller number of children allows for more effective care and greater chances for each child to reach adulthood in good conditions. But the key factor in the demographic transition has always been an increase in  living standards, not a controlled reduction in the birth rate, even in China.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, where a vast majority of the population remains dependent on non-mechanized field work – up to 70% – the number of children closely matches the productivity of the family unit. This is why the demographic transition and its benefits in terms of child health are still slow to be felt. This explains why sub-Saharan Africa bore a disproportionate burden of children’s deaths worldwide. While global GDP grew, Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP grew more slowly, from a constant $1.300 billion in purchasing power parity in 1990 to $3.574 billion in 2017. In high-income countries, one in 185 children died before their fifth birthday, compared to one in thirteen in sub-Saharan Africa.This is all the more unacceptable that solutions to this scourge are well known and “easy” to implement. Most of these deaths would be avoidable with better vaccination, sanitation and access to basic medicines. It is therefore necessary to rethink the entire health and hospital system, from hygiene education to the training of competent doctors, specialists and general practitioners. It also necessitates the completion of the health pyramid with a more effective network of territories with health centres, clinics, regional and national hospitals.

The experience of African countries that have successfully tried such or such solution should be copy-pasted. For instance, the spread of antibiotics in Niger has allowed to cut death rates among infants, perhaps by as much as 25 percent. Beyond technical solutions, it is sometimes the mentalities that still need to change, as illustrated by the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in 2015 where simple changes to death rituals were critical to halt the epidemic.

THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THE RURAL AREA

African Agriculture Facing Challenges of Entrepreneurship. We need to challenge the traditional sources of financing and investment in the agricultural sector and introduce alternative, innovative private sector financing methods.

Not a week goes by without a trade show or newspaper article dedicated to African agriculture. The topics range from the untapped potential of African agriculture and the challenges of rural development to the benefits of introducing agriculture that is better adapted to the impending climate changes. This is a refreshing and significant change of perspective. After all, African agriculture has been suffering for a very long time and is still haunted by the image of stagnation and backwardness. Reinforcing the significance of urban elites and the rural exodus that began in the 1970s and continued through the 1980s have contributed immensely to this image of the backwards African farmer, suggesting that the cities are the future of the continent.

One in four Africans is suffering from chronic malnutrition. This is a truly paradoxical situation given the resources our continent has.

However, the numbers today speak volumes about the importance and potential of African agriculture. The agricultural sector accounts for about 60 percent of jobs within the African continent and amounts to 25 percent of its GDP. At the same time, Africa has over 600 million hectares of arable land, which corresponds to 65 percent of the uncultivated farmland in the world. There is a lot of talk about land grabbing and the impact of large agro-industrial corporations, which should certainly not be underestimated. However, in this context people often forget that in Africa more than 80 percent of the 51 million farms are less than two hectares in size.

Harnessing this potential has become all the more urgent given the fact that Africa imported $35 billion worth of food in 2016. One in four Africans is suffering from chronic malnutrition. This is a truly paradoxical situation given the resources our continent has. Population growth is also forcing rural areas to become central to the development strategy of our continent. It is estimated that approximately 20 million people enter the labour market each year, of which 12 million live in rural areas. In order to integrate this labour force, agriculture and rural development must therefore become priority by transforming rural areas into economically prosperous areas.

The challenge is to create value chains that make it possible for smallholders and farms to build a competitive and sustainable ecosystem, which will lay the foundations for integrative economic growth in Africa. In my book ‘L’Afrique à l’heure des choix’ (has not been published in English, but loosely translates to ‘Africa’s Critical Choices’), I address several possibilities to change and modernise African agriculture, and I stress the importance of emphasising agricultural entrepreneurship.

It is paramount that we explain to our youth that farmers are entrepreneurs like any other. Like every entrepreneur, they have to manage the workflow, financial matters, the role of new technologies, the security and diversification of assets (preparation for set-aside farmland, use of parcels, etc.). However, promoting these jobs requires a massive investment programme to open new agricultural schools. Vocational training programmes need to be enhanced, just as we do for ‘normal’ entrepreneurship.

However, promoting agricultural entrepreneurship would not make sense without simultaneous safeguards and incentives (including legal and fiscal/tax benefits) to motivate farmers to create added value. Generally speaking, we need to challenge the traditional sources of financing and investment in the agricultural sector and introduce alternative, innovative private sector financing methods. Thanks to their holistic, collaborative and strategic approach as well as their multilateral management style, these innovative financing options contribute to increased productivity and agricultural development: Private investments are mobilised and market weaknesses are balanced out.

A reform of the land register and land rights is essential.

At the same time, the meteoric rise in mobile phone usage in Africa offers many opportunities for innovation that can change and improve the financing of rural development. Nigeria and Kenya, for example, were the first countries to introduce a system whereby subsidies for the purchase of fertiliser are distributed directly to farmers. This was made possible by partnering with mobile technology companies and network providers.

Finally, a reform of the land register and land rights is essential. Land titles granted as part of a system of land tenure are all too often a luxury for most African farmers and are also discriminatory against women. Proper introduction of these systems is an incentive for farmers to invest in their production resources and to introduce good work practices. Land ownership is always a hot topic in Africa; hence, protecting the land rights is paramount to building inclusive, resilient and sustainable communities.

Promotion of agricultural entrepreneurship requires deep rethinking and important reforms of our state policies regarding the education and training of young farmers, the reform of the land register, access to new financing methods, and increased use of new information and communication technologies (NICT) in the agricultural sector. This is the agricultural and innovative Africa we hope to see in the near future.

More on Welt ohne hunger

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.