The Inaugural African Economic Platform will strengthen common policies

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

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

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

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

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

The spectre of recolonisation

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The African youth should be invited to co-create its future

Increasingly the youth, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the population of African countries, feel disenfranchised from their political representatives and other figures of authority. This is a youth which is connected and exposed everyday through television, via the internet or the radio to foreign realities, and one which exercises, therefore, a degree of autonomy in relation to traditional lifestyles. Our youth are no longer confined to developing their identity and aspirations based upon the place in which they live or upon the answers that the elders are prepared to give.

On the other hand, traditional leadership often remains problematic in Africa. Political figures and other figures of authority find it difficult coming to terms with the increasingly fluid identities and fragmented authority in the modern African state. Eventually this state of affairs could lead to the progressive breakdown of the norms which have sustained African life till now. This process has taken place in other parts of the world. But it is taking place at such an accelerated pace on the continent that the question needs to be asked as to whether it could threaten the development pathway of Africa.

However, here is another way of looking at the issue beyond a simple juxtaposition. Culture is not static but always changing as each generation contributes its experience of the world and discards things that are no longer useful to them. African countries are already largely multinational, multi-ethnic and multi-religious countries built on European ideas of the modern state. The source of traditional authority and legitimacy, blood and land, has mostly since been replaced by civic ideas of democracy. Today this democracy seeks new energy, as it does across the world. To be able to harness the energy and ambitions of our youth into a positive force we must create space to allow them to co-create the future.

The youth bulge in sub-Saharan Africa has not escalated into political violence. But we should not wait for a climate of us-versus-them to settle. Governments need to continue to invest in all levels of education, in vocational training and, most of all, in policy that creates the incentives for higher investments to absorb the country’s labour. Traditional leadership styles need to give way. Barriers against transparency need to come down, allowing access to public information, open data and creating, in the process, a more meaningful participation in the political process. We need to build the bridges necessary to allow the voice of the African youth to shape party policy, and contribute to their country’s crucial dialogues over nation building. So, let us create the conditions for a real partnership with the youth, sending a strong signal that their involvement is an integral part of the transformation of the continent.

World Water Day : 22 March 2017

The critical importance of water in daily living cannot be overemphasised. World Water Day, an international day that celebrates freshwater, was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

In Agenda 2063, Africa’s 50 year development strategy, Africans expressed in Aspiration number 1, the desire to see “a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.”  This aspiration is underpinned by the wish to see an Africa in which its “cities and other settlements are hubs of cultural and economic activities, with modernised infrastructure, and its people have access to all the basic necessities of life, including shelter, water and sanitation.”

Key to Africa’s inclusive growth and sustainable development is the equitable and sustainable use and management of water resources for socio-economic development, regional cooperation and the environment.

The best way to push water and sanitation up on the political agenda is to find an obvious way to link water to development. This is why Goal 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for clean water and sanitation for all. That SDG has 8 major targets to reach by 2030. Among them we find a commitment to “protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.”

That commitment is not something that people (and by extent governments) should consider as redundant. Indeed, water scarcity must be considered as a top priority risk: It is at the same time a major constraint to socio-economic development of nations, a growing problem for businesses, and a threat to growth and stability on a global scale. Thus, it is far from being a minor problem.

This is the reason why it is inconceivable to act with short-term financial interest as the only goal and not to look on consequences on the environment and water conservation. For instance, water is critical for successful climate change mitigation, as many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions depend on reliable access to water resources.  This year’s focus on wastewater points to the need to reduce and reuse wastewater as a valuable resource.  Increasing water recycling and safe reuse of wastewater is a key component of sustainable water management – that will go a long way in enabling us to have “The Africa We Want!”

We have a long way to go before water scarcity problems are solved across the globe but it is our strategic interest to act now, on our continent. I urge all stakeholders to rally together and get things done. Water is not a secondary issue – it is a social, human, and economic issue. Water is the lifeline for the 1.2 billion people living in Africa.

Africa Common Passport as a Catalyst to Boost Intra-Africa Travel and Trade

During the Twenty Seventh (27th) Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which took place in July 2016, in Rwanda, the Chadian President, H.E. Idriss Deby, remarked on receiving the African Union passport, “I feel deeply and proudly a true son of Africa after receiving this passport.” Two months later, African billionaire businessman, Mr. Aliko Dangote, in a CNBC Africa interview given in September 2016, lamented, “Somebody like me, despite the size of our group, I need 38 visas to move around Africa. You go 
to a country that is looking for investments; that particular country will give you a run around just to get a visa. They are giving you visas as if it is a favor.”

The views presented by the above-mentioned prominent African political and business leaders tell differing stories. President Deby was speaking about his feelings on the acquisition of the African passport, as well as how the adoption of the passport by all African counties would fast track integration on the continent to achieve socio-economic growth for the well-being of its citizenry. Then, there is the other experience, as narrated by Mr. Dangote, which tends to frustrate African citizens. Some African countries are getting stricter in terms of their visa requirements. Apart from a letter of invitation and an itinerary, one is required to also show proof of company registration, bank-account statements, and tax-clearance certificates. In some cases, the required documents have to be translated into the official language of the country issuing the visa, if the documents are
in other languages. Even when the visa requirements are met, visas are not issued on time. More so, transit visas are required when transiting to countries that do not have direct connecting flights.

It is well documented that strict visa regulation brings about differentiated negative socio-economic spin-offs. The share of intra-Africa total trade is very unfavorable when compared with other trading blocs. Intra-Africa trade is about 12%, slightly higher than Western Asia which stands at 9%. The rest of the intra-regional trade at the global level enjoys high volumes, with North America and the European Union trading within their blocs at 61% and 62%, respectively. However, it could be argued that Africa’s low intraregional trade stems from the fact that economies of African counties are premised on primary produce, making it less attractive for the countries to trade amongst each other. However, the argument is denigrated by the other indicators, in which cost of doing business is higher in Africa than in other regional groupings.

In another related development, the lack of free movement of people, goods and services
 on the continent impacts negatively on economic growth and job creation. For example, highly skilled Africans who needed
 to ply their trade outside their home countries, usually migrate to other continents searching for pastures new, instead of sharing and transferring their skills with fellow Africans in other African counties. Many unfortunate ones have been found dead in the Mediterranean Sea, while trying to emigrate to Europe and other parts of the world. Wealthy and highly skilled Africans are normally encouraged and attracted to invest and work in the global north. Ironically, African countries tend to attract foreign expatriates from the global north to work in the local service sectors at a significant cost. Bringing in foreign expatriates at higher cost is a major impediment to Foreign Direct Investments.

Africa boasts a rich and diverse cultural heritage as
well as natural assets, in terms
 of dramatic landscapes and unique flora and fauna, which should render the continent the preferred tourism destination. Moreover, there are a number of factors that can drive the continent’s intra trade and travel, including improved air access, mega infrastructure projects, and a skilled workforce. However, these factors require heavy investments and resources to come to fruition. In contrast, more relaxed visa policies do not require lengthy processes and huge resources to be introduced. Evidently, countries with relaxed visa regulations reap significant economic gains. One major example in Africa is Seychelles, whose main source of revenue is tourism. Seychelles’ ascendancy in the Sub-Saharan Africa travel and tourism index for almost
a decade is reflected in the secure level of employment that its citizens enjoy. The tourism industry in Seychelles contributes about 30% to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

If we look specifically at 
the aviation sector in Africa, it supports about 7 million jobs
and contributes US$80 billion to the continent’s GDP. Therefore, relaxing visa policies, especially the adoption of the AU passport, would expand air travel and guarantee more employment and economic opportunities across the continent.

Africa’s regional integration agenda for the economic transformation of the continent has been on the cards for over four decades. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) Charter
and the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) place emphasis on the ideals of African unity; continentalism; pan-Africanism, and regionalism. The Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty proposed the economic, political and institutional mechanism to attain regional integration. Many African leaders have come to the realization that regionalism is urgently needed to deal with political, economic, and social crises facing the continent. This has been reflected in the various development agendas that African countries have adopted thus far: the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the overarching development framework for the region in 2001; the NEPAD Tourism Action Plan of 2004 –a framework to foster sustainable tourism on
the continent; the 2012 adoption of a Framework, Roadmap and Architecture for fast-tracking the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA); Action Plan for Boosting intra-African trade (BIAT), and Agenda 2063.

Nonetheless, scepticism by some persists and challenges the adoption of the common African passport. A number of rebuttals have been advanced to cast aspersions on the concept of a more open continent: the notion that countries will lose their sovereignty; an increased risk to national security; exposure to regional conflicts; health-related concerns due to the spread of diseases, and migration problems in which jobless people and refugees tend to concentrate in countries which, although possibly more affluent, may not have the accommodation and funding to house, feed and employ a large influx of such people. Other challenges include a lack of technological facility and capacity to issue biometric passports in most Africa countries. Only about 14 countries in Africa currently issue biometric passports.

However, there already exists free movement of Africans on the continent within some Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa, such as the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), as well as most of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries. Furthermore, a few countries such as Rwanda and Ghana offer visas on arrival. Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda have introduced the UNI-VISA, whereby the acquisition of a common visa can be used to travel to all three countries. The citizens of the three countries can travel to the other counties with the UNI-VISA arrangement, without visas. The existence and implementation
of the aforementioned policies
in the sub-regional blocs and countries is a demonstration that security concerns and economic migration can be addressed, through the investment of technologies, integrated border control, and identification management systems.

In conclusion, given that the economic benefits of the free movement of goods and services outweigh the minor shortcomings, it would not be too much to ask of the continent to focus and give more priority to a sector that contributes 10% to the continent’s GDP. The policies to attain the economic Holy Grail, which intra-Africa travel and trade could bring, are already in place. What is required now is the collective e orts, as well as the political will, of African leaders to implement the policies, including the adoption of the African passport by 2018. The full roll-out of the common passport would ensure that the likes of President Deby and Mr. Dangote really feel African, as well as free to contribute to the economic prosperity
of the continent. In the interim, other similar policies such as:
visa reciprocity; visa-free regional blocs; visas on arrival; multi-year visas; standardized and simpler visa processes; and showcasing of African success stories, exemplified by Seychelles’ achievements, should be encouraged.


India and Africa: a crucial relationship

Last July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an official visit to our continent, meeting with Heads of States in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. Notably, his arrival in Mozambique marked the first time an Indian Prime Minister visited the East African Nation in 34 years.

The visit was meant to deepen and strengthen India-Africa partnerships and agreements, in line with the 2015 Third Africa-India Summit, which emphasized the necessity of increased diplomatic relations. This is a very good thing! Let me explain why.

First, India is Africa’s fourth largest trading partner, with trade flows of $70 billion in 2015.  Besides, India and Africa represent one-third of the world’s population and a large majority of them are in their youth. Thus, their partnership can be a source of great strength for each other, both to reinforce and accelerate their respective economic development.

I think that the future of India and Africa can shape the course of this world. Therefore, we need to learn from each other’s experience. For instance, African countries can benefit from India’s approach to guarantee access to higher education to those from poorer homes. India has a great role to play in Africa regarding the development of human resources through education, vocational training and skills development. This, among others, can help Africa upskill its people for its impending demographic challenges.

On the other side, India needs to join forces with our fast-growing African market. Let us not forget that Africa’s development is a huge opportunity for India: Indian companies are more and more numerous in Africa (as an example, Indian firms have invested heavily in natural gas projects in Mozambique and are exploring the potential for others in Tanzania). Also, we should benefit from the considerable progress in agriculture that India made over the last few decades. Indeed, Indian success has taken place in the context of low capital intensity farming and varied biodiversity conditions, which can be of great relevance to our continent. Together, we can address more efficiently emerging challenges: climate resilient agriculture and adaptation to climate change to name a few.

Today, to lead our continent towards a long-term development, I think we need to multiply partnerships with countries and regions of the world that can help us to have a new approach in various fields, and bring investments with them. China is not the only one to be considered. All countries are welcome players and a competitive engagement could be beneficial. Let us open ourselves to the world so as to attract investors and develop win-win partnerships! This is the way we will strengthen our role on the world stage.


No Marshall Plan for Africa, Please!

development-is-vital-for-africa-5“Cologne Memorandum” for a Different Development Policy

This is a guest post from a collective of scholars and practitioners of development aid as well as diplomats who have served in Africa. They met at a conference of the Bonn Appeal in Cologne, Germany, to discuss the state of development aid for Africa and the conclusions to draw from it. They agreed on a Cologne Memorandum that includes a list of demands plus explanations.

Among the authors are:

Dr. Hans F. Illy
Dr. Peter Molt
Dr. Franz Nuscheler
Dr. Rainer Tetzlaff
Professors of Political Science and African Studies

Dr. Karl Addicks, fmr MP Bundestag, Liberals, spokesman Development Cooperation. Klaus Thüsing, fmr MP, Bundestag SPD, 15 yrs. Country Dir., German Dev. Serv., in Africa
Volker Seitz, 17 yrs., Diplomat in African countries
Kurt Gerhardt, Bonn Appeal, fmr Country Dir., German Development Service (“DED”) in Niger

It is a more than 50-year-old mistake to believe we could make development policy for Africa. An error with fatal consequences. The rich and the powerful became richer. Poverty grew as a result of population growth. Most African countries became not more independent, but more dependent. A spiral like a drug ring: the more material is offered, the more lethargic and addicted the addicts become. But in this case, the offer does not come from greedy cartels, but from well-meaning governments. And it is not distributed by shady dealers, but by often very dedicated helpers on the ground. In short, a tragedy.

The truth is this: development in Africa can and must only be done by Africans. The African countries need to know what they want, and plan what they can. If they need support from other countries, they must say this and justify it. And if the reasons are good, they will get help. We will no longer regard them as natural “recipient countries” and us no longer as “donor countries.”

It therefore follows that:

  1. A massive increase in the level of government aid will not bring about a significant improvement in living conditions in African countries. Rather, large parts of the additional resources are expected to flow into the wrong channels and the exodus continues.
  2. Overall, development aid has not yet set in motion any fundamental and sustainable economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. On the contrary, state development aid has strengthened the dependency of the recipient countries and hampered the emergence of economic dynamism.
  4. Despite privileged trading conditions, there are scarcely any produced goods from sub-Saharan Africa on the world market.
  5. The current state development policy has assumed responsibilities that prevent development in Africa.
  6. Development aid has become a machinery that increasingly serves its self-preservation. Africa needs:

– Local and foreign entrepreneurs who build production plants in Africa. They are to be comprehensively supported, because the economic development of Africa is not possible without industrialization.

– Provide practical vocational training as a basis for sustainable economic development.

– Development aid that is provided to reliable organizations on site to promote African self initiative.

“Cologne Memorandum” — Explanations

Plea for a detoxified development aid policy

  1. If development aid had reached its goals, we would be discussing today how to phase it out. But the opposite is the case: it is to be increased. Even a Marshall Plan for Africa is called for.
  2. In spite of all the legitimate disappointments concerning the lack of successive development successes, it should not be forgotten that progress has been made in some areas (health, education, democratic co-determination, advancement of women, computer science and communication). NGOs, political foundations and church development services, among others, played a decisive role in this.
  3. Nevertheless, people’s poverty has remained at a high level for some years (about 50% of the population). States implode; ethnic and cultural conflicts increase in intensity in many places. All approaches to curbing state corruption—Africa’s main problem—have largely proved to be ineffective. State sovereignty is misunderstood and misused as a license to deceive and oppress.
  4. The industrialized countries of the North have a part in this misery: development aid has turned out to be a drug from which the spoiled consumers cannot get enough. Since the intended use of the financial transfer cannot be controlled (e.g. by parliament and judiciary in the recipient countries), it strengthens the illegal, partly criminal activities of democratically poorly legitimated governments that are more interested in privileges for themselves than in effective development policy for the benefit of their population. This complicity between parasitic governments and Western donor organizations is not ethically justifiable: taxpayers’ money is being burned! Development can only come from within.
  5. Therefore, we call for a detoxification of current development cooperation practices and a return to the real concern of development aid: to encourage people in poverty-stricken countries to activate their development potentials for a “good life,” that is, helping to overcome obstacles on the way to a self-determined life through their own work income.
  6. Efforts to understand and reconcile socio-cultural differences would have to be carried out with much greater seriousness.
  7. All practices in trade and economic relations with African countries that are a fatal “job killer,” especially the market-distorting practices of EU agricultural and fisheries policy (production subsidies), should be omitted. One should start with those production systems that are particularly harmful to Africa.
  8. Disincentives in the education system (brain drain) must be stopped. Instead, an increased focus on vocational education and training is recommended, taking into account the local conditions of adapted technologies. In particular, the teaching of MINT subjects, e-learning and “on-site” scholarships should be promoted, as well as the provision of universities through sustainable institution building.
  9. Cooperation with the very active African diaspora is to be encouraged. For example, incentives and assistance would make it possible for the professional staff practicing in Europe to return to their home countries.
  10. The addressees of development aid should not only be the governments of developing countries but also institutions that broaden the social spectrum of aid recipients: selected non-governmental organizations and entrepreneurial elements of the middle class Small and medium sized enterprises so far stifled by a parasitic patronage state. For governments that do not comply with the agreed standards of developmental cooperation (EZ criteria catalog) to the detriment of their populations, developmental transfers should be canceled, and with crass cases of corruption, for the duration of the presidential term. Unchecked “budgets” should be stopped more consistently. We oppose the current tendency to resume development assistance for the sake of foreign-policy reasons for countries that disqualify themselves due to human rights violations.
  11. More resources should, however, be made available for priority areas with a sustainable impact on the development potential of the labor force. There is an urgent need to promote family planning programs in order to limit the strong population growth that is destroying socioeconomic progress.
  12. Support for microcredits to women’s groups according to the criteria of the Grameen-Bank is to be increased.
  13. Stronger support for the German medium-sized companies with greater use of risk capital is required.
  14. For all aid measures, goal-oriented coordination among the donor countries must be demanded for improved consistency.

Towards a development model for Africa based on human capital.

In my previous posts, I have made reference to the facilitation that Nepad is doing to attract investment into African projects. But Africa needs much more than money and infrastructure. In order to transform its economies in a world fuelled by information and driven by knowledge, Africa needs to build on its knowledge capital.

The objective of this post is to articulate the need for growing a knowledge-based economy in Africa, whereby research, knowledge and innovation become central in paving the way to our development. A knowledge-based economy refers to an economy in which the production, exchange, distribution and use of knowledge is the main driver of economic growth, employment generation and wealth creation. Investing in education and knowledge generation and distribution in Africa means investing in human capital.

Universities and higher education have always been part of Africa’s history. The University of Al Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco, opened in 859 AD, is considered the oldest university in the world. Al-Azhar University in Egypt, part of the larger complex of institutions associated with Al-Azhar mosque, currently enrolls 2 million students. This legacy is not, however, responding adequately to the challenges of modern Africa in either quantitative or qualitative terms. Unless deliberate and bold initiatives are implemented to reinvigorate higher education, science, technology and innovation on the continent, Africa risks losing out in the new economy.

Here are some worrying statistics based on current offerings. While a child in an OECD country runs an 80% chance of going to university, in Africa, it is only 6%. Limited support to research and development, outdated curricula and limited direct links between science and industry mean that we lack a competitive edge on a global level. Our universities need to produce knowledge, cutting edge research that allows us to solve everyday local problems and improve our lives across the continent.

This stride is in line with the significant shift in Africa’s development paradigm. Our attention is increasingly on Africa’s participation in its own development planning, on Africa’s ownership of its own development initiatives and the capacity building of our professionals. We need to build our own knowledge triangle between education, research and industry. In turn, this will create a solid connect between knowledge generation, its utilization, its transformation (including its products) into economic growth via the production of knowledge-intensive goods and services. This triangle needs, of course, to be supported by frameworks of good governance and appropriate government policies.

In 2017 we will need governments to champion and engage in human capital development, by prioritizing education and making funds available for formal schooling. There is also a key role for private firms and national innovation systems to play in encouraging investments in research and training. The role of intellectual capital cannot be underestimated in the rise of Africa in the 21st Century.