CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS AFRICA TO ITS MOST ANCIENT SYMBOLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s centenary and his legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEPAD to become the African Union Development Agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Africa’s Youth Day

It is now 42-years since the memorable day of the Soweto Uprising. Fast forward to 2018, June 16 is annually commemorated as Youth Day in South Africa to recognise the courageous action of these youths, and also remember the souls of those who died in the uprising and the families who carry the direct impact of their loss. What was a day of sorrow, shame and dehumanisation for the nation of South Africa has now been transformed into a celebration of the triumphant and brave South African youth who put their lives on the line to seek justice and register victory that has changed the nation forever.

NEPAD Agency joins South Africa in commemorating Youth Day and embraces the influence inherent in African youth as conduits of democratic, social and economic change. The African Union and its leadership recognise the important role performed by youth in our society that in 2017 the theme for the year focussed on youth – Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth.

Africa has the youngest population in the world, and it continues to grow with estimates indicating that by 2055 the youth population (age 15–24) will double on the continent. We take this opportunity on the occasion of Youth Day in South Africa to emphasise the message of youth inclusion by urging countries across Africa to invest in young men and women and safeguard their human rights, peace and well-being as they are the future leaders of our continent.

It is time to purposefully develop and implement policies that inculcate inclusionist ideas favouring African youth in all spheres of the continent’s development agenda. Success in eliminating diseases that disproportionately affect the continent, ending poverty and achieving zero hunger, as well as repositioning Africa as a frontrunner in the potential of the 4th industrial revolution and emerging technologies relies heavily on how African youth policies are implemented and prioritised.

African youth of today must be given the platforms and opportunities to participate in the development agenda of the continent and shape The Africa We Want. Youth are the real drivers of Agenda 2063 who will live to witness its fruition. The AU recognises youth as key agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development in all areas of African Society. The courageous South African youth of 1976 altered the course of history for their nation, and many others do the same in their locales across Africa today, albeit in different ways, the core of these efforts is to establish a better future for the continent.

To all the African youths today, we encourage you to get involved and bring your contribution to shape our continent together. As Nelson Mandela said, “To the youth of today, I also have a wish to make: be the scriptwriters of your destiny and feature yourselves as stars that showed the way towards a brighter future.”

Intra-continental migration, a windfall for Africa

Could it be that we have missed a fundamental phenomenon structuring the African economies? By focusing the debate on extra-continental migration and its impact on relations between African countries and their partners, we have forgotten that most of the migration from Africa is intra-continental migration. According to a recent UNCTAD report, 19 million people migrate across Africa each year, compared with 17 million to other continents, and 5.5 million migrating from the rest of the world to Africa.

The results of this study go against the current of a pessimistic view of the phenomenon of migration, a vision that usually emphasises imagined problems of assimilation, loss of jobs, the struggle between immigrant populations and locals for public resources, imbalances in the health and welfare systems, cultural friction, etc. There is another picture that emerges here: intra-African migration is an engine of productivity and growth, the transfer of skills, an intensification of trade, industrialisation and investment in the countries of origin.

Countering the argument that immigration leads to competition for jobs, the study highlights the fact that some migrants are answering the call of the leading economic sectors of certain countries where the labour force is drying up. This is the case for education and engineering (Rwanda), financial services (South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda), telecommunications (South Africa, Rwanda), construction (South Africa, Ivory Coast) and mining (South Africa, Gabon), as well as for agriculture (South Africa again, Ivory Coast). These sectors display a demand for all levels of skills and demonstrate that migration largely responds to a demand from the host countries whose supply of labour sometimes struggles to adjust to growth, or to a rapid transformation of their economic structure.

As for integration through work, this is accelerated for migrants in a market that allows them to develop skills that they would not have had access to in their countries of origin. Farmers with low skills in Burkina Faso have been able to gain new ones and thus gain access to better paid jobs than would have been the case had they stayed at home. It is also thanks to this increase in skills that the macroeconomic equilibriums, far from being destabilised by the arrival of new populations, are reinforced in the host country, as well as in the countries of origin. This is an incentive and a message for some African countries that are still too cautious in their management of African migration.

In the host country, better pay results in increased consumption of local products, or of products imported from the country of origin (“the nostalgia trade”). Migrants from the DRC and Zimbabwe in the period 2000-2013 generated growth in food imports from these two countries, from 100,000 to 650,000 dollars for the DRC and from 100,000 to one million dollars for Zimbabwe. In this respect, migrants constitute an economic link between the countries of origin and the host countries, and a singularly effective engine of growth in exports from their country of origin.

The increase in their pay means they also contribute to an increase in local consumption and to the tax revenues (taxes and duties) of the national economy. The idea that the arrival of new populations would destabilise the social equilibrium is also invalidated by this observation. And, thanks to the money sent back from the diasporas to their countries of origin, a transfer of capital between countries is taking place, and there is also a contribution to the social systems of the countries of origin.

All the benefits of this phenomenon of intra-African migration no longer need proving. The challenge to be faced is now in the hands of the African countries, some of which have already started to adapt their legislation to support this movement, even if others have not yet understood the benefits they could derive from it. But migrations, which are a component of our continent, will see their positive effects increased thanks to the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and a pan-African passport. The harmonisation of standards, the disappearance of customs barriers, the free movement of people and capital are all mechanisms that can boost migration in a unified market across the whole continent.

Africa’s Critical Choices: coming soon

I would like to inform you that a new book I have written will soon be published, first in French and then in English. It is called “Africa’s critical choices”.

This book is a dear project I have had for a long time. It is addressed to the generation that will take up positions of responsibility in Africa in the next two decades.

It is intended both as a warning and a guide, a message to those who will have to deal with the period of critical changes Africa is facing, be they economic, demographic or political.

It is at the same time a feedback, a diagnosis and a plea. And, I hope, a frank, original and lucid examination of what we managed so far and what we could do better in the future.

This is also a book I want to dedicate to the  women and men who have put so much energy in keeping the pan-African ideal alive.

I now hope that you will enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Africa Day

“Let us all unite and celebrate together

The victories won for our liberation

Let us dedicate ourselves to rise together

To defend our liberty and unity…”

That is how the African Union anthem starts.

Today, the 25th of May, all of us Africans on the continent and in the diaspora join together to celebrate Africa Day. We therefore take this opportunity to convey the best wishes from the NEPAD Agency to all Africans across all corners of the world.

Wherever we may be, we should be proud of our identity as Africans, treasure our traits and traditions and exhibit the spirit of Ubuntu, with what Hausas call Mutunci.

On this day, let us pause to embrace our economic opportunities and to reflect on what it means to achieve the aspirations of Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want! Thus we shall be able to answer the question as to whether we are on the right path towards the dawn of a new day for Africa and her people.

May we continue to wisely learn from lessons of the past, build on current progress and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available, and facilitate free movement of Africans on their Continent.

I wish everyone a happy and peaceful Africa Day.

Mo Ibrahim Forum 2018 – Roundtable on Public Services in Africa

I was delighted to participate to the Mo Ibrahim Forum 2018’s roundtable on Public Services in Africa. Here is the link.

The 2018 Ibrahim Forum focused this year on public services in 21st century Africa: their key relation to good governance and effective leadership, new challenges and current shortcomings, the ways and means to strengthen them and make them appealing to the next generation.

 

Africa needs to reform public sector to ensure effective service delivery

Africa needs to reform its public service for effective service delivery to citizens, officials and experts said at a panel session on Saturday.

“We must address African public sector challenges adequately through reforms to ensure economic growth and accelerate development,” said Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Agency

“The public sector is a key component of the economy, and it plays a major role in economic growth and development of any country. If Africa ignores its public sector, the continent won’t achieve its development agenda,” he said.

Dr Mayaki was speaking at a panel session of the Ibrahim Governance Weekend in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. The Ibrahim Governance Weekend is the flagship event of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, held every year in a different African country.

This three-day event convenes prominent African political and business leaders, representatives from civil society, multilateral and regional institutions as well as Africa’s major international partners to debate issues of critical importance to Africa.

The weekend begins with a Leadership Ceremony, where this year the event welcomed and celebrated the 2017 Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.

Dr Mayaki, who is also the former prime minister of Niger, emphasised that service delivery in Africa is still slow despite the fact that some governments have put in much effort to ensure that citizens access public goods and services.

“The whole of Africa’s public sector needs an overhaul in order to have that one that is delivering to its promise,” said Jennifer Musisi, executive director of the Kampala City Authority, Uganda.

“The mandate of the public sector is to improve the general welfare of society by delivering efficient and effective services to citizens, but this is lacking among African governments,” remarked Herman Mashaba, mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Poor management of finances, high levels of nepotism, corruption, incompetent public servants, lack of accountability, poor human resources practices, and a lack of leadership have taken toll in the Africa’s public sector,” he noted.

The three-day event held by Mo Ibrahim Foundation kicked off in Kigali, which convenes prominent African political and business leaders, representatives from civil society, multilateral and regional institutions as well as Africa’s major international partners to debate issues of critical importance to Africa, according to organisers.

Established in 2006, the non-grant making organisation focuses on defining, assessing and enhancing governance and leadership in Africa through its four main initiatives including Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Ibrahim Forum, Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership and Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships.

Source: Adapted from Xinhuanet.com