Banking on African Infrastructure

Africa faces a yawning gap between its infrastructure needs and its ability to attract the foreign investment required to finance projects. The continent’s leaders must recommit to creating a more favorable investment climate, one that can attract capital while limiting investors’ risk exposure.

JOHANNESBURG – As the US Federal Reserve embarks on the “great unwinding” of the stimulus program it began nearly a decade ago, emerging economies are growing anxious that a stronger dollar will adversely affect their ability to service dollar-denominated debt. This is a particular concern for Africa, where, since the Seychelles issued its debut Eurobond in 2006, the total value of outstanding Eurobonds has grown to nearly $35 billion.

But if the Fed’s ongoing withdrawal of stimulus has frayed African nerves, it has also spurred recognition that there are smarter ways to finance development than borrowing in dollars. Of the available options, one specific asset class stands out: infrastructure.

Africa, which by 2050 will be home to an estimated 2.6 billion people, is in dire need of funds to build and maintain roads, ports, power grids, and so on. According to the World Bank, Africa must spend a staggering $93 billion annually to upgrade its current infrastructure; the vast majority of these funds – some 87% – are needed for improvements to basic services like energy, water, sanitation, and transportation.

Yet, if the recent past is any guide, the capital needed will be difficult to secure. Between 2004 and 2013, African states closed just 158 financing deals for infrastructure or industrial projects, valued at $59 billion – just 5% of the total needed. Given this track record, how will Africa fund even a fraction of the World Bank’s projected requirements?

The obvious source is institutional and foreign investment. But, to date, many factors, including poor profit projections and political uncertainty, have limited such financing for infrastructure projects on the continent. Investment in African infrastructure is perceived as simply being too risky.

Fortunately, with work, this perception can be overcome, as some investors – such as the African Development Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and the Trade & Development Bank – have already demonstrated. Companies from the private sector are also profitably financing projects on the continent. For example, Black Rhino, a fund set up by Blackstone, one of the world’s largest multinational private equity firms, focuses on the development and acquisition of energy projects, such as fuel storage, pipelines, and transmission networks.

But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Fully funding Africa’s infrastructure shortfall will require attracting many more investors – and swiftly.

To succeed, Africa must develop a more coherent and coordinated approach to courting capital, while at the same time working to mitigate investors’ risk exposure. Public-private sector collaborations are one possibility. For example, in the energy sector, independent power producers are working with governments to provide electricity to 620 million Africans living off the grid. Privately funded but government regulated, these producers operate through power purchase agreements, whereby public utilities and regulators agree to purchase electricity at a predetermined price. There are approximately 130 such producers in Sub-Saharan Africa, valued at more than $8 billion. In South Africa alone, 47 projects are underway, accounting for 7,000 megawatts of additional power production.

Similar private-public partnerships are emerging in other sectors, too, such as transportation. Among the most promising are toll roads built with private money, a model that began in South Africa. Not only are these projects, which are slowly appearing elsewhere on the continent, more profitable than most financial market investments; they are also literally paving the way for future growth.

Clearly, Africa needs more of these ventures to overcome its infrastructure challenges. That is why I, along with other African business leaders and policymakers, have called on Africa’s institutional investors to commit 5% of their funds to local infrastructure. We believe that with the right incentives, infrastructure can be an innovative and attractive asset class for those with long-term liabilities. One sector that could lead the way on this commitment is the continent’s pension funds, which, together, possess a balance sheet of about $3 trillion.

The 5% Agenda campaign, launched in New York last month, underscores the belief that only a collaborative public-private approach can redress Africa’s infrastructure shortfall. For years, a lack of bankable projects deterred international financing. But in 2012, the African Union adopted the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa, which kick-started more than 400 energy, transportation, water, and communications projects. It was a solid start – one that the 5% Agenda seeks to build upon.

But some key reforms will be needed. A high priority of the 5% Agenda is to assist in updating the national and regional regulatory frameworks that guide institutional investment in Africa. Similarly, new financial products must be developed to give asset owners the ability to allocate capital directly to infrastructure projects.

Unlocking new pools of capital will help create jobs, encourage regional integration, and ensure that Africa has the facilities to accommodate the needs of future generations. But all of this depends on persuading investors to put their money into African projects. As business leaders and policymakers, we must ensure that the conditions for profitability and social impact are not mutually exclusive. When development goals and profits align, everyone wins.

Financing Africa’s infrastructure and agricultural development: Inclusive growth for economic transformation

New York, 17 October 2017 –  The case for financing infrastructure and agricultural development was made at the United Nations headquarters during Africa Week.

Chair of the  Africa Group, Mr Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Permanent Representative of Djibouti to the United Nations, made the call to look at ways to mobilse resources, investment, capacities, skills and technology in order to facilitate agricultural and infrastructure development in Africa.

As envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and Agenda 2063, partnerships will be the essential means of implementation for these development frameworks. In this context, African leaders have prioritised domestic resource mobilisation, through enhancing economic growth, improving the tax system and expanding the tax base, and curbing illicit financial flows while promoting public-private partnerships, and leveraging remittances, financial markets and pension and sovereign wealth funds.

Financing infrastructure and agriculture projects requires an enabling environment that includes adequate skills in project preparation and management, the availability of adequate financial products and institutions, a business friendly environment, adequate hard and soft infrastructure including the legal framework, comprehensive risk management, and political leadership.

H.E Jakaya Kikwete, Former President of Tanzania , reiterated the need for resources to be increased for agriculture and infrastructure. “Since the Maputo declaration was made in 2003 through Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme [CAADP], many governments have increased their budgetary allocations to agriculture. However, mechanisation is still lacking and a number of challenges still remain. Therefore, more investment in agriculture and infrastructure is needed to achieve inclusive growth,” he said.

Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency, concurred with H.E Kiwete in stating that agriculuture in Africa was revitalised through CAADP.  “As the development agency of the African Union, NEPAD  implements  continental  strategies and builds coherent plans through frameworks such as CAADP for agriculture and PIDA for infrastrcuture,” Dr Mayaki said. “ These and other continental frameworks are embeded in Agenda 2063 through which regional and national coherence is built,” he added.

Dr Mayaki went on to state that energy is a good example of the link bewteen agriculture and infrastructure. “More bankable projects are needed to attract the much needed investment in infrastrutre, ensuring that returns are high and risks are low.  NEPAD Agency’s desrisking report shows that Africa is not as risky as was perceived,” Dr Mayaki said.

“With the underutilisation of resources, coupled with population growth, Africa has not yet achieved self-sufficency in food security,” Prof Victor Harison, Commissioner for Economic Affairs at the African Union Commission stated.

The Commissioner also remarked that rural infrastructure is essential to accelarate agricultural development, emphasising that infrasturure and agricultural developement are prerequisites for meeting goals in Agenda 2063 and SDGs.

World Bank Senior Vice President, Mr Mahmoud Moheildin’s presentation showed that following a sharp slow down, recovery is underway in Africa, South of the Sahara. GDP in the region is expected to strengthen to 2.4 percent on 2017/18  from 1.3 percent in 2016. However, growth in cereal yields in Africa has been consistently lower than in other years, with infrastructure deficit  holding back growth

Prof Al-Amin Abu-Manga, Member of the African Peer Review Panel of Emminent Persons concluded  that, “Africa has reoruces, what needs to be strengthened is governance thereof.”

Building public health delivery systems that support Africa’s industrialization

New York, 17 October 2017 – “It is a fact that Africa is the second most populous continent in the world, with the population projected to grow by 25% by 2050 and 40% by end of the century. Yet the continent has health challenges that need to be addressed in order to support the growing population,” Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency made the remarks at the organisation’s event during Africa Week in New York.

During the event on Building public health delivery systems that support Africa’s industrialisation, Dr Mayaki underscored the fact that Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals call for promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrialisation. Pharmaceutical manufacturing and mining are among the priority sectors identified in AU’s programme for Accelerated Industrial Development in Africa (AIDA). Africa requires a healthy workforce in order to realise targets for industrialisation which demands an efficient public health delivery system.

Africa continues to grapple with high disease burden, weak health care delivery systems and fragmented markets for medical products and health technologies.  As the develoment agency of the African Union, NEPAD has taken critcial steps  to address the continent’s disease burden by building systems that provide enabling environment for pharmaceutical sector development. This is through the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonisation (AMRH) Initiative which provides a sound foundation for strengthening regulatory systems and establishment of strong institutions to ensure long term sustainability.

Other programmes that the NEPAD Agency is facilitating and coordinating in the health sector include, amongst others; malaria vector control, development of research for health and innovation strategy, scientific validation and value addition of herbal remedies in order to promote African Traditional Medicines.

In her opening remarks, NEPAD Agency’s Head of Health Programmes, Mrs Margareth Ndomondo-Sigonda maintained that, “You cannot talk of sustainable socio-economic growth without addressing the health of the people who are the drivers of industrialisation.”

During the event, participants explored available options for health financing; promotion of research and development and innovation on medical products and technologies including traditional medicines; local production of medical products and health technologies for stronger health care delivery systems.

Dr Janet Byaruhanga, from NEPAD’s Health programme focused on strenghtening regulatory systems, local production of medical products  and access to finance.  She stressed the need to provide conducive environment for the private sector to secure capital for increased investment  in this sector. In addition, the pharmaceutical sector has huge potential to create jobs for youth through the use of modern technologies.

Speaking on the promotion of investments and creating knowledge based jobs, in improving competitiveness as well as public health,  Dr Paul Lartey, founding Chair of Federation of African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (FAPMA), made the case for reliable and sustainable capital for investment in manufacturing and assurance of compliance to good manufacturing practices and standards  in order to produce quality medicines.

The World Bank representative, Dr Andreas Seiter, Global Lead-Private Sector HNP, World Bank remarked that Africa should be proud of the achievements made in medicines regulatory harmonisation initiative. He indicated that progress made this far working through the reginal economic communities is commendable.  He highlited on achievements made in the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the impact of the African Union Model Law on Medical Products Regulation in assisting countries to review their national laws, adding that the momentum should be maintained.

In addition, the NEPAD Agency is investing in the fight against Tuberculosis and other Occupational Lung Diseases in the Mining Industry starting with Southern Africa.  Mrs Chimwemwe Chamdimba, Principal Programme Officer pointed out that TB is the top killer among infectious disesases in Africa. Currently it is being tackled among the most vulnerable populations by looking from three angles: TB and HIV; TB and poverty, and; TB and mining.

Africa Week: Integrated, prosperous, people-centred and peaceful Africa

New York, 16 October 2017 – “The international world must change the way it looks at Africa. Africa is a place of opportunity,” said Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations during the opening session of Africa Week in New York.

Africa Week commenced with a high level event on Supporting an Integrated, Prosperous, People-Centred and Peaceful Africa: Towards the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The rationale for this year’s theme for a prosperous African continent is one where different national economies are seamlessly integrated and the economic and social participation of all citizens is guaranteed and promoted. Governments and partners were therefore urged to work to ensure an environment in which entrepreneurship takes root and flourishes, as a means to stimulate economic growth and with a focus on peace and security.

In his opening remarks, Mr David Mehdi Hamam, Acting Special Adviser on Africa pointed out that the UN agenda is central for Africa’s prosperity and peace. “The question is not whether Africa can achieve its goals, but rather how we can facilitate the continent’s partnerships to achieve these goals. Africa is progressively overcoming its challenges towards the Africa We Want leading up to the World We Want,” Mr Hamam said.

In the same light, Mr Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly reiterated that, “Africa is rising. The World Bank has confirmed that after a period of stagnation, growth on the continent is on the up-swing. Africa is taking charge of its own development.”

Prof Victor Harison, Commissioner for Economic Affairs at the African Union Commission stated that achievements in Africa include implementation of the First Ten Year Plan of Agenda towards integration. “Industrialisation must spearhead development and rural infrastructure development will lead to greater transformation,’ Prof Harison said.

Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency focussed on what not to do in order for Africa’s transformation to be realised. He stressed on the need for countries not to implement solutions that contradict regional priorities, if integration is to be attained. With regards to people-centred transformation, Dr Mayaki called for the broadening of partnerships, that is, governments, private sector and civil society. In order to realise a peaceful continent, he emphasised on the need for raising sufficient levels of youth employment through labour intensive industries, coupled with inclusive governance.

Prof Mahamoud Youssouf Khayal, Chairperson, African Peer Review Panel of Eminent Persons, underscored the fact that both Agenda 2063 and 2030 Agenda are people centred, and the African Peer Review Mechanism for Africa is also people centred.

Ms Chinwe Esimai, Managing Director and Chief Anti-Bribery and Corruption Officer,
Citibank, made the point that through Agenda 2063, technology and innovations have the potential to root out corruption and contribute to prosperity.

The events of Africa Week present an opportunity for open discussion on issues that are in line with the implementation of goals set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These two Agendas are mutually reinforcing as they focus attention on inclusive and sustainable structural transformation across all dimensions of sustainability including governance, peace and security and sustainable development.

Growth Without Industrialization?

I share with you a very good article by Dani Rodrik, an economist whom I appreciate very much. This paper also illustrates how reality sometimes goes faster than economists can predict. We must therefore be agile and flexible in our approach to industrialization policies.

Low-income African countries can sustain moderate rates of productivity growth into the future, on the back of steady improvements in human capital and governance. But the evidence suggests that, without manufacturing gains, the growth rates brought about recently by rapid structural change are exceptional and may not last.

CAMBRIDGE – Despite low world prices for the commodities on which they tend to depend, many of the world’s poorest economies have been doing well. Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth has slowed precipitously since 2015, but this reflects specific problems in three of its largest economies (Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa). Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Rwanda are all projected to achieve growth of 6% or higher this year. In Asia, the same is true of India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

This is all good news, but it is also puzzling. Developing economies that manage to grow rapidly on a sustained basis without relying on natural-resource booms – as most of these countries have for a decade or more – typically do so through export-oriented industrialization. But few of these countries are experiencing much industrialization. The share of manufacturing in low-income Sub-Saharan countries is broadly stagnant – and in some cases declining. And despite much talk about “Make in India,” one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s catchphrases, the country shows little indication of rapid industrialization.

Full article here

South Africa, Nigeria: turning growth into wealth for all

For the past few days, economists and analysts have been cautiously pleased that two economic locomotives in Africa are returning to positive growth rates. Nigeria and South Africa, which have competed for years as the continent’s leading economies, are experiencing a growth rate of 0.55% and 2.5% respectively.

These numbers are positive, but is that enough? These statistics are only a reflection of a situation at a given moment, the expression of some interesting performances in certain areas, in particular agricultural or mineral raw materials. The economic agency Bloomberg explains in this regard that “both economies had agriculture largely to thank: in South Africa, a bumper corn harvest following the worst drought in more than a century saw the sector surge 34 percent from the prior quarter, while in Nigeria, where farming vies with industries as the second-biggest contributor to GDP, it increased 3 percent from a year earlier despite the period being in the planting season”. In both countries, as in others, growth remains fragile. A slight change in world prices (cereals, oil, for example) can reduce the economy.

The political and security situation can also affect investment, and therefore growth capacity. And then the situation of these two countries is very different: Nigeria is the leading producer of crude oil and the most populous country in Africa today and needs at least 3% growth just to absorb the growth of its population. I am not even talking about creating enough jobs for all the young people who arrive every year on the labor market.

South Africa remains the most industrialized country on the continent, but its population, so its market, is not very large. The country already has important infrastructure, including nuclear power plants, and significant natural resources, but is it sufficient to maintain a high rate of growth that ensures a better standard of living for all?

The link between growth and the well-being of populations, which might seem obvious, is not an absolute rule. The example of Nigeria is enlightening, because if the country finally emerges from one of the worst economic phases of its history, it should be remembered that between 2004 and 2010, when its economy grew on average 8.32% per year, observers noted with surprise that the level of poverty was increasing from 54.7% to 60.9% of the population.

The growth of the economy does not mean an equitable distribution of wealth. Nigeria is no exception to a trend seen elsewhere, namely the widening gap between the very rich and the very poor, and the large increase of the very poor share of the population.

Only long-term growth-sustaining programs and equitable redistribution of the fruits of this growth can lead to an improvement in the situation over time.

Birth control or better development policies?

It seems that time has come to debate the demography of Africa. Reports, experts and politicians have been concerned for some time on the subject, which is sensitive in most developing countries, of the rapidly growing population and sometimes even dealing with the idea of birth control. Some are referring to some ancient theories, like Malthus’, and, not without a certain logic, compare the rate of population growth with the rate of growth of the economy. Others are witnessing in the demographic growth a sign of liveliness and future wealth for our countries.

Let us first look at the figures: the latest report by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), “World Population Prospects, the 2017 revision”, indicates that Africa will have nearly 4.5 billion inhabitants by 2100, 40% of humanity compared to 1.3 billion today (17% of the total population). Africa will have a population comparable to that of Asia (Asia should see its population stabilize at 4.8 billion, whereas it is 4.5 billion today – 60% of the world population). The global population should then be 11.2 billion inhabitants compared with 7.5 today.

By 2030, Nigeria is supposed to account for 410 million inhabitants, more than the United States. The UN report adds an interesting point: most of the world’s population growth should be concentrated in only nine countries, most of them in Africa: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. Currently, the African population is growing by 2.5% against 1.7 at the world level.

Population growth is due to several factors: the fertility rate (5.5 in 2006 vs. 5.0 in 2016) is very high – with Niger’s extreme example of 7.4 children per woman of reproductive age – but also the increase in life expectancy which has gained 20 years in Africa since 1950 and is now 57 years old. One point to remember also: population density in Africa is one of the lowest in the world.

Of course, one can’t be as specific about the rates of economic growth. But the optimistic projections indicate for the coming years a growth of 4 to 6 points per year in Africa. A figure envied by most other regions of the world. We have already said how much these growth rates did not take into account the whole economic reality of our countries, the informal sector in particular, and that they were often distorted in one way or another. Faced with this situation, which party to choose? Should we even choose a camp? Is it possible? At a time when China has reversed its enforced policy of birth control, Africa must in turn try to limit births by constraint, while studies show the desired number of children per woman in Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is greater than five?

Children are still seen in Africa as a source of wealth and an economic and social safety net: manpower for farming and other works, but also pension insurance in countries that do not have any system of the sort. These are all factors that must be taken into account and which make it impossible for us to adopt binding policies. Besides, no one reckons that China has been handicapped in its economic development by its strong demographic and its 1.3 billion inhabitants.

On the other hand, making women’s health and education a priority, fostering access to modern means of contraception while creating the conditions for the real emancipation of women and girls so that they can choose to or not undergo their pregnancies, that could lead to lower fertility rates.

The combination of private and public strengths will allow Africa to reach true rural growth

Africa recently experienced an unusually long spell of steady growth. Sadly, it is a well-known fact that our economies failed to ensure the equitable sharing of the benefits of one of the highest growth rate in the world. So we are today in a specific context of a general decline in commodity prices and a consecutive slowdown in growth in Africa. This downward trend in commodity prices may be a constraint, but I would also like to see it as an opportunity because both public and private stakeholders will have to be more innovative in order to unlock new sources of endogenous growth, wealth and inclusive employment with greater spill over effects for the region’s economies.

Addressing the challenge of employment and wealth in the rural world is crucial for Africa’s development. The situation is highly paradoxical: Africa imports the equivalent of USD 50 billion in food each year, even though more than half of the world’s uncultivated arable land is on the continent and 60% of the population still lives in the rural world! The development of this agricultural potential, at a high productivity and competitiveness level, is essential if Africa is to feed 2.5 billion people by 2050.

Today, the challenge is to identify new tools for sustainable economic growth, this time based on principles of inclusion and equity, while maintaining a steady growth rate. Meeting these conditions will enable African economies to cope with a population that is still booming and with the ever-growing number of young people looking for education, training and jobs. These challenges are set against a backdrop of climate change and resource depletion, calling for the use of production techniques that are tailored to environmental challenges.

The principles of inclusion and equity imply adopting spatial and territorial approaches and policies that ensure rural areas benefit from the same developments and initiatives as urban areas; that responsible investments are made in rural areas; and that women and young people have access to the factors of production, especially training, land, water, finance, renewable energy, markets and income that reflects the fruits of their labour.

There are promising signs that private sector money is finding its way towards more inclusive development models. Conservation finance is one of the most exciting corners of agriculture development in emerging countries today. Conservation finance strives to reach three major and complementary goals to finance the agro-ecologic transition by calculating three different kinds of returns: economic, environmental and social.

These new investment projects are based on limited land acquisition and partnerships with farmers networks that are empowered with new techniques. The new actors take care of their production and of its transformation and ensure an access to the market, whether locally or internationally. Private investment in agroforestry businesses is a big driver for the intensification of farmer’s activities while restoring degraded lands, protecting forests and raising farmers’ incomes.

The African public sector should invest more money in incubators and accelerators to channel funding and technical support at the beginning of the cycle of these projects. This investment will pay off because the incubators could create a network of agroforestry start-ups with the infrastructure, knowledge and access to the funding needed to realize their concept. The consequences in terms of employment and resource developent could be tremedous. In this regard, the support of international governments and donors will also be essential. The progressive transition from solidarity systems to mixed market systems will help to stimulate investment and the development of structural activities capable of laying the foundations for this much-needed change.

Renewing public policies on the basis of local development would also help to tackle the root causes by providing appropriate solutions to ensure people settle and remain in their areas of origin. The empowerment of local authorities should be based on their specific characteristics, their ecosystems, their cultural heritage and their know-how combined with technological innovation and learning, especially for young people and women.

The governance of our natural resources and the financial resources they generate are the cornerstone of our structural change; they require appropriate solutions at the continental, regional, national and local levels, the most critical ones being the regional and local levels. Change will be sustainable when it happens at these two levels.

Leapfrogging Progress

I am sharing an excellent article from my friend Calestous Juma on leapfrogging progress via The Breakthrough website:

ithin two years of its launch in 2007, money transfers through M-Pesa, a cell-phone-based mobile banking application, already equaled the equivalent of 10 percent of Kenya’s GDP. What started as a local system to serve populations too poor for traditional banking has since grown into a global industry, one that threatens to disrupt traditional banking systems around the world. Today, M-Pesa’s network includes 30 million users across 10 countries, and its services have expanded to include international transfers, loans, and even health care.1

Image credit: CNN, “M-Pesa: Kenya’s mobile money success story turns 10” (2017), http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/21/africa/mpesa-10th-anniversary/.

The wide adoption of mobile phones in Africa, along with applications like M-Pesa that it has enabled, has created remarkable technological enthusiasm on the continent. Symbolizing the great potential that lies in technological catch-up and leapfrogging, M-Pesa has served as an inspirational example of what Africa could accomplish in other sectors like energy, education, health, transportation, and agriculture. Indeed, countries such as Rwanda are already using drones to transport medical supplies, while the dramatic drop in the cost of solar energy points to the widespread adoption of the technology across Africa.

Full article here

Why the solutions to global challenges are found at the pan-African level

At a time when more and more voices are being heard to challenge the European Union (EU), the idea of ​​unity of the Old Continent and especially the functioning of its institutions, the African Union (AU) has just accepted a new member: Morocco.

This demonstrates the attractiveness of the continental organization, which, although not perfect, has to its credit many achievements that are conducive to stability and development. It must be said that the AU was able to renew itself. From the OAU of independence to the AU that we know today – in fact largely inspired by the EU – there has been a real qualitative leap we must welcome.

Today the AU is an essential interlocutor for the international community. Africa is able to speak with one voice in the major international arenas, whether on climate or trade. Unity is strength, as the saying goes. But union, especially when it goes beyond the mere economic framework, is not easy: one sees it in other parts of the world, in the Middle East for example, but also in North America where deep divisions have been growing.

In Africa, on the contrary, the continental unity is now strengthened. It is interesting to note that even when countries are divided, at no time do the new entities envisage leaving the AU. I’m thinking here about the latest example to date, South Sudan. Morocco has clearly understood this, which is back in the ideological lap of the founding fathers of Africa, who, after independence, wanted this African unity because they dreamed of a community of destiny and interests.

Already with NEPAD, or with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the vision of development, projects and commitments are continental. We have succeeded in producing an overall African project, where each country sees its interest and can hope to be part of the general effort. This is true for infrastructures – rail, electricity – but also for the social issue through Agenda 2063, which includes measures over 50 years to stimulate socio-economic transformation across the continent.

A key element of this transformation is to take full advantage of the “demographic dividend” to ensure that economic progress improves growth, social development and the sharing of wealth. This is also the case for health with the “African Health Strategy” and the “Catalytic Framework for the Elimination of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Africa by 2030”, set up by the AU. There is still progress to be made, especially in integration, the free movement of people and goods, but in 15 years progress has been quite extraordinary.

With its values, ambitions and strengths – economic and demographic growth, important natural resources and dynamic youth – Africa today can face the challenges coming from a world in perpetual change by cultivating unity. In the UN, for example, our countries weigh more when they are united. And it is with this unity that we can also open ourselves to the rest of the world. The AU is our home, our safe haven. We can look at other geographical areas, such as the EU, for example, for Morocco and Tunisia, or as the BRICS for South Africa, but in the end we know where we come from. That is our strength. These extensions from Africa to the rest of the world via individual countries, or also via diaspora, is a key strength. It remains to ensure that there is a principle of “diplomatic sharing” or preferential access set up within pan-African bodies.

Our partners are already very active: for example, on the board committee of the AfDB, we find France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and China, among others. These partner countries and friends of Africa therefore participate directly in the projects implemented by the continental bank. This facilitates action and makes the partnership more effective. Our inequalities can also be forces: if Moroccan and South African banks play their role as a capital distributor, this can benefit other countries and their respective private sectors.

Integrating the pan-African perspective into reflection can only benefit the actors in this immense market that has become Africa.