Africa needs ‘integrated approach’ to economies

Trade is essential for Africa’s development and liberalising it is key. But is a Free Trade Area the answer? Sceptics say it’s an addition to the African Union’s flagship Agenda 2063 and that Africa has too many programmes and protocols.

The BBC’s Lerato Mbele met with Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), to find out if all of these programmes will add value for businesses and bring prosperity to ordinary people.  Full video here

World TB Day

It is unjust and unacceptable for 1.7 million people to die of Tuberculosis each year worldwide – a disease that is not only preventable, but can be treated and defeated. As we commemorate World TB Day on 24 March, we must reflect and begin to ask ourselves pertinent questions on how we fight TB in Africa.

Are we really winning the fight against TB? What are the lessons learnt and best practices and how can these be positively applied to energise current efforts to end TB in the world, and in Africa particularly? The answers to these symmetrical questions demand political and social commitment, both pre-requisites without which the fight to end TB will be lost. There is an urgent need to mobilise our political leaders to speak with one voice and to advocate for improved financial and human resources towards this cause, as well as hasten research and innovation to encourage scientists to find new regimens to treat TB – regimens that are cheaper, accessible and easier to use with shorter treatment timelines.

The NEPAD Agency is working towards this end by involving Parliamentarians to mobilise political support in Africa. Many African leaders have already made commitments to ending TB through the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030. Our objective is to implement and reinforce this commitment with strategic partners.

This is a fight that requires working in unison for a common agenda. Hence, we have embraced multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approaches to combat the scourge of TB from all possible vantage points. A healthy Africa translates into a productive workforce, eventually advancing our agenda of socio-economic development.

In addition to political commitment, we have reached a stage where the civil society has to be actively involved in efforts to fight TB given the dynamics of our social structures. African social structures generally provide support to TB patients, support to affected families in times of difficulty and spread the messages of prevention, which is fundamentally as important to ending TB as is treatment.  It is time we begin to break myths and tell the unique stories of those who have defeated TB, the TB survivors. These powerful voices can no longer be underrated in behavioural change approaches, which is required to successfully address the challenges of TB mis-information in our communities.

No one should have to die from TB or lose their source of income or job because of TB. This is an injustice that we must endeavour to correct without fail. No one should be left behind in this fight against TB. NEPAD Agency is committed to the theme of this year’s World TB Day of Wanted: Leaders for a TB-Free World. You can make history. End TB.

We need to find the leaders who will make history by delivering a TB-free world. These leaders exist and are ready to be engaged. Many times we tend to look beyond ourselves, but YOU and I are these leaders, we can champion the cause to end TB and bring our contribution to eliminate this scourge for good in Africa, and the world by 2030. Stand up today and be counted among the leaders, you are wanted.

March 21 – Human Rights Day in South Africa

The commemoration of Human Rights Day in South Africa is a reminder to all of us on the African continent to ensure that no one gets left behind.

As we continue to make strides towards attaining the aspirations enshrined in Agenda 2063, our continent’s vision for ‘The Africa We Want,’ we first and foremost recognise the fact that all human beings are equal. This is echoed in South Africa’s Bill of Rights that protects everyone’s right to life, equality and human dignity.

On this day, South Africans are called upon to reflect on their rights and to protect their rights. South Africans are also asked to reflect on the rights of all people in their country from violation, irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whether they are foreign nationals or not, as human rights apply to everyone, and this application should be without prejudice or discrimination.

Africa’s Agenda 2063 defines the vision for a continent, whose development is people-driven, especially relying on the potential offered by its youth and women. It goes without saying then, that even as the African Union calls on everybody to commit to achieving the elimination of harmful cultural and traditional practices, and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, recognising the role played especially by women and youth, and upholding their rights is key to transforming our continent.

South Africa’s history – and  in particular the happenings of 1960 in Sharpeville when a group of 10 000 people peacefully marched and protested against the pass system – reminds us that human rights at times come at a high cost.  Peace and freedom should now be enjoyed by all in the country as well as in the rest of the continent, and not taken for granted.

Let us then continue to work together in building ‘The Africa We Want’ by first protecting and cherishing the human rights of each and every African citizen!

HUMAN CAPITAL IS THE VITAL ASSET OF NATIONS

GDP and GDP growth, often regarded as benchmarks when it comes to assessing the economic situation of a country, have long been controversial. Already in 1992, following the Earth Summit in Rio, several economists had begun to look at the notion of “sustainability”, believing that GDP did not take into account the stock of natural resources that is nonetheless essential to ensure economic growth over the long term. Similarly, the 2008 financial crisis reminded us of the extent to which our instruments for measuring the economic health of countries and businesses can be inaccurate or even misleading.

In a new study entitled “The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018”, the World Bank analyzes the evolution of the wealth of 141 countries between 1995 and 2014, taking into account four elements. The valuation of wealth is based on natural capital (mineral and natural resources, forests, etc.), capital produced (infrastructures, etc.), net foreign assets and, above all, human capital (income of a person throughout their life). This is the first time that human capital has been introduced into such a study, illustrating the importance of investing in individuals as an essential tool to create the wealth of nations.

We note that human capital represents not less than two-thirds of the world’s wealth. In high-income countries, human capital accounts for 70% of the wealth compared to only 40% in low-income countries. Thus, when we follow the trajectory of low-income countries that became middle-income countries between 1995 and 2014, there is an investment from the proceeds of natural capital toward infrastructure and education. Conversely, in ten of the 24 countries from the low-income group, natural capital still accounts for more than 50% of the national wealth.

Globally, global wealth has increased, including the catching up of high-income countries by middle-income countries. Nevertheless, inequality has persisted since, in OECD countries, per capita wealth continues to be 52 times higher than that of an inhabitant of a low-income country. Moreover, even though low-income countries show a near doubling of their wealth levels between 1995 and 2014, the demographic pressure felt in many countries, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, has not allowed per capita wealth to increase as much as the world average.

By reading this report, we can conclude that Africa faces two main challenges: leading the transition from wealth based on natural capital to wealth based on human capital and better managing its demographic pressure. African countries that have too often been hit by the “commodities curse” need to massively reinvest their extractive industry revenues in infrastructure and education to create the necessary conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth. It is another evidence of the fact that African governments must reflect on their development strategies by harnessing the demographic challenge so that our youth truly becomes the first wealth of our continent.

TIME IS NOW TO SCALE UP WOMEN’S RIGHTS AND NUTRITION ACTIVISM IN AFRICA

Op-ed by Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of IPU, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD Agency and Nahas Angula, former Prime Minister of Namibia and Convener of the Namibia Alliance for Improved Nutrition (NAFIN)

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2018

Johannesburg, 08 March 2018 – On the occasion of International Women’s Day, three African leaders and activists, Martin Chungong, Cameroonian Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, former Prime Minister of Niger and CEO of NEPAD Agency, and Nahas Angula, former Prime Minister of Namibia and Convener of the Namibia Alliance for Improved Nutrition (NAFIN), come together to celebrate rural and urban crusaders who have transformed women’s lives and call for more activists to speak up for gender equality to fight malnutrition across Africa.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, we celebrate not only all women, but especially the activists – rural and urban, men and women – who are transforming women’s lives. Right now, women and men across Africa are part of a movement sweeping across the world for women’s rights, equality and justice.
You do not have to look far to see – or hear – women on the continent slowly breaking the silence, joining the #MeToo campaign on social media, raising their voices in unison alongside many men and against the status quo, organising for better representation in decision-making and demanding land rights and equal pay for work of equal value.
However, with the increase in hunger and food insecurity seen last year across parts of sub-Saharan Africa – for the first time in decades – there are few rights as important to our future survival as the right to adequate food and good nutrition. This will not happen unless each woman and man, girl and boy is equally valued and has the same access to food. This means that, when we move from thinking to acting on nutrition and food security, we must also think and act on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Throughout history, activism in Africa has yielded enormous results. Many women have fought for justice for women before us. Today this is not only a moral duty, it is the smart thing to do. Recently, countries such as Senegal and Tunisia have made strides in ensuring equal rights for both women and men. Rwanda has secured the highest percentage of women in parliament in the world, whilst women in Liberia and South Sudan have been at the forefront of peace and reconciliation efforts. In the words of Nelson Mandela – our ‘own’ Madiba – whose 100th birthday we will celebrate later this year, “freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression”. Sadly, no country has achieved this freedom yet.

Where there is food insecurity, rural women and girls are disproportionally affected and more likely to experience the multiple burdens of malnutrition. They are often tasked with making sure every family and community member reaps the benefits of the best possible food and nutrients available and are involved at each stage of the food value chain – from farm to fork.
Although there are no large differences in the number of malnourished girls versus boys under five years old, the difference in power between males and females really becomes visible as girls reach adolescence. Malnourished mothers, especially those who have not attended secondary school, are more likely to give birth to malnourished girls and boys, perpetuating a vicious intergenerational cycle – with devastating effects for the brain power of the continent.

It is widely accepted that good nutrition is a maker and marker of sustainable development. What we now know is that gender equality is a maker and marker of good nutrition. With this knowledge, the main message we have for policy-makers, leaders and activists all over Africa is to scale up investments in women for better nutrition and food security everywhere. Yet, without empowering lawmakers to unblock resources from national budgets and putting in place the necessary means and policies in support of women and girls, no initiative will succeed.

Yesterday, we gathered together to address a high-level event of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Johannesburg. This Alliance has been tasked with ensuring that food security and nutrition remain at the highest level of both political and legislative agendas. We brought together a regional platform for African Members of Parliament to make sure that women’s and girls’ rights, needs and agency are at the front and centre of all actions.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to leave no one behind. Recently, the publication Nature estimated that no single African country is set to end childhood malnutrition by 2030, due to large disparities within countries themselves. This is in spite of the fact that most African countries, especially much of sub-Saharan Africa and eastern and southern regions, have shown improvements.

As members of the Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement – a voluntary push for better nutrition which today counts 60 countries, many of whom are African – we know that successful nutrition approaches are those that have sought to address and eliminate gender inequalities. Much of the reduction in hunger worldwide between 1970 and 1995 is a result of improvements in women’s status and access to decision-making, including in parliaments. We know that if we give a girl access to secondary schooling, more than 25 per cent fewer girls and boys will be stunted, and will be able to develop normally. The evidence is clear. Now is the time to act.

International Women’s Day is not just a celebration but a reminder to us to remain activists in our own right, not only as heads of agencies which promote equality, but also as individuals. Together, let us empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and make improved nutrition a reality.

We commit to scaling up women’s rights and nutrition activism in Africa, and beyond. And hope you will do the same. The #TimeisNow for the #TheAfricaWeWant.

Multilateralism: Opportunities and challenges for Africa

Rome, Italy, February 14, 2018 – Increasing numbers of people around the world are living in contexts, which for different reasons, may be considered to be fragile. Situations associated with relatively low institutional capacities, social and political instability, as well as (in some cases) conflict, are reducing resilience to shocks emanating from climate and weather-related conditions, environmental pressures and adverse economic conditions – with virtually all countries affected to a greater or lesser degree by these challenges.

It is also notable that the incidence of violent conflict is at an all-time high, which is multiplying the numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees. These realities are undermining the prospects for sustainable development and threatening the livelihoods of the rural people.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) 41st Governing Council, held on 13 and 14 February, was on the theme ‘From fragility to long-term resilience: investing in sustainable rural economies.’

Global collective commitment to development is even more essential today and a key success factor for sustainable local solutions. It would not be an exaggeration to state that as frustration grows globally on issues as such as poverty and inequality, unemployment, migration and climate change, the world is at the same time experiencing trends that are important to note – from globalisations (mixed with some radical spikes of protectionism) through to a global society that is increasingly become multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural. This is clear wakeup call on the issue of multilateralism.

At a high-level event on Multilateralism: Opportunities and challenges, the NEPAD Agency’s CEO, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki emphasised that multi-sectoriality is now an imperative.

With regards effective multilateral action for African agriculture, Dr Mayaki highlighted the fact that the framework of CAADP- the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme – currently implemented in 54 African countries, is a good case in point.

“CAADP was a product of multilateralism, aligned to Africa’s priorities, which, as a framework, put agriculture in 2003 back on the table as a key to growth,” Dr Mayaki stated. “Agriculture is a sector that employs more than 70 percent of the people in Africa.” Due to its very nature, agriculture by default cuts across different sectors.

Dr Mayaki also pointed out that currently multilateralism is challenged by bilateralism, for instance, in implementing decisions on the Paris Agreement on climate change.

However, for the African continent, “Most of our solutions are not at national level but at regional level. For us it is a form of multilateralism through regional integration – be it through energy, land restoration, trade or infrastructure – that will lead us to optimal solutions,” Dr Mayaki said.

“Transitions”: Preface by Carlos Lopes

Another timely and straightforward article from Carlos Lopes, on Africa’s industrialisation. A great read!

Africa’s prospects are again being questioned for many reasons: some quite familiar, like commodity prices, debt or conflict; others less so, such as climate change, technology or migration.

To link the fortunes of a continent to its natural resources bounty should have been positive. Indeed, Africa has been blessed with mineral wealth, a remarkable blue economy, and incredible energy potential. However, paradoxically, these ingredients for growth have benefited others, empowering others’ industrialisation, creating value chain opportunities for others, generating employment elsewhere, or accumulating capital in other shores.

Unsurprisingly, part of the Africa Rising narrative matured around the commodity boom and the need to take note of the continent’s growing business opportunities. It was, therefore, only natural that such a narrative would change with the end of the so-called commodity super cycle; heralded with historic low prices for oil that hit hard some of the continent’s largest economies. Pundits were quick to identify the reasons for lowering expectations.

Full article here.

African States’ Fragility and resilience

If we want things to move forward and improve, especially for the economic and social development of our people, we sometimes have to recognize our weaknesses. One of the most important today is the weakness of the State in most of our countries. This weakness can quickly turn into fragility, as we have seen with phenomena as different as the Ebola virus, or the progression of Boko Haram, not to mention the management of the consequences of global warming.

The weaker or fragile a state is, the more likely it is to be overwhelmed by events and unable to cope with the large-scale challenges it faces. The question of the resilience of our states is therefore very meaningful and relevant. It is necessary to give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s : the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been a pioneer in the field of fragility of States under the presidency of Donald Kaberuka by creating a Department directly responsible for these issues. Initially the focus was on States in transition, especially post-conflict, but gradually shifted to the concept of more general resilience and taking into account more scenarios that our States face.

In January 2017, the AfDB organized with success its first Forum on Resilience in Africa. It had made it possible to analyze various situations of fragility present on the continent, but also to note a major fact: the continent is progressing, and some extremely fragile states manage to consolidate. Another observation that logically follows the first is that fragility can precisely derive resilience that can therefore lead to the stability of our states. We just have to recognize our weaknesses.

Last year’s recommendations included the need to forge stronger, competency-based partnerships to make interventions more effective; and “to respond in a concerted manner to the needs of people at the bottom of the poverty pyramid by providing early interventions at the community level in situations of fragility, in order to ensure greater inclusion while giving hope to the most vulnerable”.

It is precisely on the theme “Building resilience – reaching those at the bottom of the pyramid” that the second edition of the African Resilience Forum (ARF), is to be held in Abidjan on February 8th and 9th, 2018. The objective of this new meeting is to share knowledge on new approaches to provide development support in fragile environments. It is also about designing a platform to present innovative solutions and new technologies to provide essential services to the communities that need it most.

The “bottom-up” approach is favoured here, in contrast to what is usually practiced, namely large and  highly centralized national programs whose effect is not always felt by the poorest. This approach is based on the needs of the grassroots to try to improve the situation of the most fragile communities by ensuring that they participate in the definition of solutions. To do this I think it is necessary to develop new types of partnerships, to better mobilize the national resources of each of our States towards a development at the community level, knowing that the reality of development is first local.

For my part, I would also like to see in this endeavour, the direct involvement of the private sector with which partnerships are also possible, to achieve these objectives.

Reform of tax systems one of the best ways to finance development

In early December, the European Union (EU) published  a list of 17 countries now considered tax havens. Among this list, only two African countries were pinned by Brussels: Tunisia and Namibia. Another list, the “gray” one, should be published soon with the countries that have made commitments to be followed, on which, it is said,  Morocco and Cape Verde should appear.

My idea is obviously not to name and shame this or this country, especially as this list compiled by the European authorities is subjective and is sometimes based on more than questionable criteria. It should also be noted that not one single European country appears on the list, considering that they are supposed to apply European law in the fight against fraud…

But I would like to draw attention to the fiscal issue African states are facing and to the scourge of tax evasion. While Africa is still too often perceived (for all the reasons we know), as a continent dependent on official development assistance, our continent has potential resources that it actually lets evaporate each year. This problem goes well beyond the African continent. For instance, the OECD has made the issue of transfer pricing a priority in recent years.

According to the high-level group sponsored by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU), it is estimated that illicit financial flows out of Africa amount to between $ 50 and $ 60 billion each year. And again, this estimate probably underplays reality, given the difficulty of evaluating these transactions and the lack of data on this subject. Between 1970 and 2008, illicit financial flows cost Africa between $ 854 and $ 1.8 trillion, according to estimates by the high-level group dealing with illicit financial flows from Africa. Another organization, the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT), estimates that between $ 40 and $ 80 billion are lost each year in Africa. In any case, these figures are staggering.

These illicit flows include, of course, criminal activity of any kind and the transfer of funds from corruption, but they do not constitute the majority of these flows. The bulk of the flows actually come from traditional trade, a combination of tax evasion and avoidance. The first refers to the actual fraud that is illegal, while the second is for a company (or an individual) to take advantage of loopholes in the tax system of a state, to reduce the amount of its levies, which is supposedly legal though deeply immoral. The porous border between evasion and tax avoidance means that both strategies need to be fought hard.

The challenge is twofold. On the one hand, the establishment of increased inter-state cooperation to respond to this challenge is essential. Indeed, companies profit very logically from dissonances between different governments on the international tax system. Several countries are openly betting on a leveling down of tax incentives, to the detriment of many. On the other hand, public administrations too often suffer from a lack of technical expertise in the face of multinationals backed by international law firms helping them to implement aggressive tax avoidance strategies. In order to combat this phenomenon, the first step is the construction and drafting of strengthened legislation, taking into account the various tax avoidance practices, particularly the thorny issue of transfer pricing.

This legislation will only be worth the value of the ability of our tax administrations to implement them.

This is notably the fight of the Forum on African Tax Administration (ATAF), a platform dedicated to promoting mutual cooperation between African tax administrations (and other relevant and interested stakeholders) and aimed at improving the efficiency of their tax laws and administrations. The organization often cites the case of Uganda, which has become aware of this issue and has begun implementing the necessary reforms. In 2015, these reforms allowed Kampala to win a dispute with Heritage Oil for some $ 400 million before the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Taxation is an essential element for the economic and social development of African countries. It enables the fair and equitable sharing of the costs and benefits of development, contributes to the creation of a stable environment for economic operators and finances infrastructure needs at the material and social level. This is why reform of tax systems is one of the best ways to finance development, making it possible to strengthen the autonomy of governments. African governments must therefore seize this project as a priority, in order to be able to rely on the fiscal pillar to collect the resources they need to finance their development strategies.

In memory of Pr. Calestous Juma

I would like to formally pay my respect one last time to my dear friend Calestous Juma who passed away last week. Of course, my first thoughts go to his family and friends. But I think they won’t be the only ones deeply affected by his passing.

For a whole generation, and maybe for future generations of leaders, he was an exceptional teacher and thinker as well as one of the shining lights of Africa in the intellectual sphere. Famous for his good spirits and readiness to help out others, he was as charming and charismatic as he was demanding. His vision was one of openness and sound debate.

But although he was one of the most optimistic people I had the chance to meet, he did not take a rose tinted view of Africa’s place in the world, be it from an economic or political standpoint. For instance, he was noticeably quick to pinpoint shortcomings in the conventional narrative about Africa, either overpessimistic or overoptimistic.

His greatest works such as In Land We Trust or Innovation and its Enemies revolved around fundamentals topics for a truly African-led revolution, both political and economical (biological diversity, technological innovation, property rights…). He charted the path to our true emancipation, keeping in mind the importance of taking a pan-African perspective if we want to overcome our challenges.

I remember a few particularly illuminating texts he wrote and that also helped me better define my views of the continent’s development and its place in the world.

For instance this one about industrialization and what he called “the misplaced promise of Africa’s mobile revolution”, helped to deconstruct a myth often played up in the media about the quasi-magical power of new technologies to industrialize Africa. Far from being idealistic, and though he was such a pioneering scholar, he was a very down to earth and dedicated proponent of pragmatic solutions.

Most of his business plan for Africa rested on the physical infrastructure and agricultural revolution he never ceased to promote. He placed them at the center of the continent’s long-term economic transformation but was particularly keen on innovation to achieve this, as he demonstrates in a fascinating book, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa.

For generations of students lucky enough to benefit from his teaching, he will remain one of the most humble and yet noticeable voices from our continent. His voice will be sorely missed but the ones he inspired will keep him alive and well among us. Let’s hope he inspired many vocations. This would be the best tribute we could pay to his memory.