African countries are building a giant free-trade area

They have long traded with the world, now they want to trade with each other.

“AFRICA must unite,” wrote Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, in 1963, lamenting that African countries sold raw materials to their former colonisers rather than trading among themselves. His pan-African dream never became reality. Even today, African countries still trade twice as much with Europe as they do with each other (see chart). But that spirit of unity now animates a push for a Continental Free-Trade Area (CFTA), involving all 55 countries in the region. Negotiations began in 2015, aimed at forming the CFTA by the end of this year. In contrast to the WTO, African trade talks are making progress.

At a meeting on December 1st and 2nd in Niamey, the capital of Niger, African trade ministers agreed on final tweaks to the text. Heads of state will probably sign it in March, once an accompanying protocol on goods has been concluded (agreement on services has already been reached). But trade barriers will not tumble overnight. The CFTA will come into force only when 15 countries have ratified it. Even then, the deal only sets a framework, within which some details of tariff reduction have still to be worked out. Separate negotiations, covering competition, investment and intellectual-property rights, are yet to begin.

Nonetheless, technocrats are keen to talk up the agreement. Chiedu Osakwe, Nigeria’s chief negotiator and chairman of the negotiating forum, sees it as a “massive historical opportunity” to escape the colonial legacy. Some 82% of African countries’ exports go to other continents; they consist mostly of commodities. By contrast, over half of intra-African trade is in manufactured products. Supporters of the deal argue that it will create larger, more competitive markets, helping to ignite Africa’s stalled industrialisation.

African leaders also have an eye on relations with the rest of the world. No longer able to count on unilateral trade concessions from rich countries, they are instead being forced into reciprocal deals, which involve more give-and-take. A strong CFTA would give Africa extra weight in talks with Europe and America, argues George Boateng of the African Centre for Economic Transformation, a pan-African think-tank.

Yet political pressure to rush negotiations may weaken the final text. The CFTA aims to eliminate tariffs on 90% of products over five to ten years, which is less ambitious than it sounds. Much intra-African trade is already between members of smaller free-trade areas, such as the Southern African Development Community. The rest is concentrated in a small range of goods. Peter Draper of Tutwa Consulting, a South African firm, notes that, by retaining tariffs on just 5% of products, African countries could in effect exclude most of their current imports from liberalisation.

A study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that, with the CFTA, intra-African trade would be 52% higher in 2022 than it was in 2010. Since that assumes the removal of all tariffs, the actual effect will almost certainly be more modest. Research also shows that the largest gains come not from reducing tariffs, but from cutting non-tariff barriers and transport times. That will come as no surprise to drivers in the long lines of lorries queuing at a typical African border post. The World Bank estimates that it takes three-and-a-half weeks for a container of car parts to pass Congolese customs.

African countries have a mixed record on easing trade. A new one-stop border post has slashed the time taken to move cargo from Tanzania to Uganda by 90%. But even as tariffs have come down, east African countries are also erecting new non-tariff barriers, such as divergent standards for goods. Informal traders, most of them women, report harassment and extortion at borders. Meanwhile multiple deadlines have been missed on the road to the Tripartite Free-Trade Area, a separate scheme to link three regional blocs.

Free trade runs counter to political currents in many countries, including South Africa and Nigeria, where governments fear losing control over industrial policy. They also worry about losing tariff revenues, because they find other taxes hard to collect. Patience over the CFTA may be a virtue, if it gives countries more time to adjust. The technocrats are optimistic. “You create the foundation, then you can build the house,” says Prudence Sebahizi, the African Union’s chief technical adviser on the CFTA. “Even if it takes many years.”

Resetting the Africa-Europe Relationship

Africa faces a broad range of development challenges, and overcoming them will require huge sums of foreign aid and investment. But as Africa develops, its people will also need partners who recognize that there are mutual benefits to engaging with the continent’s mobile and highly-educated base of human capital.

JOHANNESBURG – In October, the European Union announced a plan to invest €40 billion ($47.6 billion) in Africa, a “Marshall Plan” for the continent that would boost economic growth, create jobs, and, ultimately, slow the migration of young Africans to Europe. “Words won’t convince migrants to stay at home,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said. “We must give them a chance to have a decent life.”Tajani is right. Unfortunately, his approach is not.

For almost 60 years, well-meaning foreign governments, many of them European, have poured huge sums of money into Africa, with little to show for it. Lasting solutions to Africa’s development challenges require funding, to be sure, but they also demand a significant recalibration in relations with foreign partners. And Africa’s relationship with Europe may require the biggest overhaul of all.

The problem goes much deeper than money; one might even say it’s philosophical. Africa and Europe have a very old relationship, marked by complexity and pain. Europe imposed its system of governance, values, and more recently, approaches to trade, long claiming that Africans need to be trained, to modernize, and to emphasize “capacity building.” This patronizing partnership has run its course, and it is crucial that we change the dynamic.

Meetings like the fifth African Union-European Union summit, which wrapped up last week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, are a good start. The meeting, which focused on “investing in youth,” put a spotlight on the complex links between the sides. One conclusion was clear: the EU’s current answer to addressing migration from Africa is outdated. If Europe’s strategy to solve its migration challenges relies on money alone, it will fail.

We are a long way from the lopsided dynamic that defined African-European relations during the colonial era. Today, Europe may need Africa more than Africa needs Europe, especially if one considers human capital.

Over the next 15 years, some 440 million Africans will enter the job market, compared to 72 million in Europe. Africa’s job seekers will need work, and Europe will have it. An aging population is already putting a squeeze on Europe’s growth, and vacancies are forecast to multiply amid a shrinking labor pool. There is even a strong possibility that, in the long run, it will be African young people who pay for the care of European pensioners. These demographic differences underscore the potential benefits of rethinking economic and political relations.

Without migration, the redistributive policies on which European welfare states depend will be unable to withstand the current rate of aging. Not only will finding the staff to care for an aging population become more difficult; obtaining sufficient revenue to fund social security systems will also become harder as the dependency ratio rises. Migration policies that emphasize mobility are essential to support European industries, household consumption and, ultimately, the financing of social benefits.

Because strategic competitors like China and India have already identified the human-capital potential of Africa’s youth, Europe must move quickly to attract and retain – rather than repel – African professionals. Of the 375,000 students from the continent who study abroad each year, many will establish businesses and find their own place in a globalized economy upon graduation. There is already growing competition in the US, Canada, China, the Middle East, and Africa itself to attract these highly educated and mobile students.

Just as sixteenth-century Europe needed African gold, twenty-first-century Europe cannot do without the African diaspora. Which other world region can offer similar market potential for European industries faced with declining demand and or subdued growth in both their domestic and traditional export markets?

That is why it is more important than ever that Europe not engage in an administrative bean-counting exercise, in which other economies will always appear stronger. Instead, the EU should commit to mutually beneficial employment schemes that maximize the strengths of people and cultures on both continents, notably through skills transfer.

Europe’s recognition of its need for Africa is a necessary paradigm shift, leading, one hopes, to reasoned collaboration. In an increasingly uncertain world, Africa and Europe can set the foundations for a smarter partnership by changing the basis of their cooperation.

Failure to do so will be costly. But most of that cost will be borne by Europe. With alternative partners already courting their talent, it is not Africa that will be hurt the most by the missed opportunity.

 

 

Women and Youth economic empowerment at core of NEPAD Agency discussions in Abidjan

Abidjan, November 27, 2017 – The NEPAD Agency in partnership with the Spanish Agency for International Development and Cooperation today hosted a high-level session, on “Technical, Vocational and Education Training (TVET) and Skills for African Youth” session.

The event which took place on the margin of the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire brought together representatives of African Union and European Union Member States and various stakeholders involved in women and youth empowerment and skills development- development partners, private sector, civil society, business leaders and other stakeholders including women and youth entrepreneurs and networks.

In his opening remarks, the NEPAD Agency CEO, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki highlighted that skills development remains a crucial factor in unlocking the potential of African women and youth.

“We need to move away from business as usual because we are already aware of our shortfalls therefore we need to focus on strategies that show impact. In order to do this, it is crucial to adopt a multi-sectoral approach when implementing projects and our job creation initiatives must have a multi-sectoral outlook. The NEPAD Spanish Fund has managed to do this well, by establishing the needs on the ground, creating projects that cater to those needs and capacitating women to empower themselves,” said Dr Mayaki.

Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies but its’ women and youth still remain the greatest untapped assets. African leaders are recognising the urgency of investing in these women and youth in order to accelerate inclusive economic growth and achieve the objectives set out in the

AU’s Agenda 2063 and the Global Vision 2030, which both call for people centred strategies that identify education, skills development and economic empowerment as key drivers of development.

Recent studies show that one fourth of the world’s population will be African by 2050 while almost half of the world’s youth will come from Africa by 2100. By 2035, the continent will have a larger working age population than India or China and a labour force, 3 times larger than Europe’s by 2050. Meanwhile, women represent more than half of Africa’s population and 60% of Africans are under the age of 25. The continent therefore needs to manage its demographic dividend in order to ensure growth and poverty reduction.

Representing the Government of Germany, Mr Guenter Nooke, German Chancellor’s Special Representative for Africa, elaborated on the German support towards youth empowerment.

“Germany has decided to support the African Union and the NEPAD Agency in its endeavours for training and employment of young people. Today we pledged 28 Million Euros for the Skills Initiative for Africa project and 3 Euros for the implementation of the African Policy Framework of Migration which has a link to labour migration,” he said.

The event showcased targeted interventions that contribute to women and youth economic empowerment resulting in employment opportunities and sustained livelihoods.

Lessons were also drawn from the NEPAD Spanish Fund for African Women’s Empowerment flagship project which to date has empowered over 1.2 million women.

“ Our current Master Plan continues to prioritise gender equality as one of the fundamental goals for development, the NEPAD Spain Fund for the empowerment of African women with the aim of improving African women’s life and specially to speed up the improvement of their economic situation,” said Christina Diaz Fernandez-Gil, Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Spain.

NEPAD WOMEN EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME

The NEPAD Spanish Fund (NSF) for African Women’s focuses on Women’s economic empowerment. To date, the Fund has implemented 77 projects in 35 countries in Sub Sahara Africa. More than one million women have benefited directly from the Fund in areas such as business and vocational skills training, enabling environment for women entrepreneur, access to finance and job creation. In many cases, these interventions brought structural changes in the promotion of women and youth entrepreneurship business in Sub Sahara Africa.

SKILLS AND EMPLOYMENT FOR YOUTH PROGRAMME

The NEPAD Agency has developed a Skills and Employment for Youth Programme (SEFY). As a central pillar, the SEFY uses existing African Union sector policy development frameworks (e.g. Infrastructure-PIDA; Agriculture- CAADP) to stimulate public and private sector investments to generate economic opportunities and critical quantity and quality of jobs along national priority productive sectors. Programmatic actions aim to provide support to strengthen evidence based national development policy and strategy development; enhancing youth skills development including harmonisation of Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET) frameworks; as well as strengthening policy and institutional support for supportive entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Africa: Rural Employment, Innovative Financing and Agricultural Development to Accelerate Sustainable Growth in Africa

Following our session “High level on Technical, Vocational and Education Training and Skills for African Youth” I am sharing with you a very relevant article from Fati N’zi Hassane, the  Head of Program, Skills and Employment for Youth, NEPAD.

Africa is often described as the world’s youngest continent: 220 million Africans are between 15 and 25 and are expected to be around 350 million by 2030. Such youth is certainly a great opportunity but it is also a challenge, especially considering that certain factors, if not managed properly, like youth employment, have the potential to become strong threats for our societies. We therefore urgently need to find sustainable prospects for these new generations in order to take advantage of their fantastic energy and prevent them from becoming a challenge.

Like anywhere else in the world – the UN estimates that 66% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050 – young Africans living in rural areas are virtually connected to the outside world. They dream of leaving their villages and aspire to modernity. However, many of these young people from the rural exodus quickly find themselves caught up in a very precarious situation, which is often due to poorly controlled urban development.

Just like urban policies are key for the continent’s growth, employment and rural development are crucial elements, even though their importance tends to be overlooked. Let us recall that a considerable number of young people will be entering the labour market in the coming years: nothing less than 440 million young Africans aged between15 to 35 by 2030, two thirds of whom will be coming from rural areas.

Full article here

Climate smart agriculture in the context of COP 23

While COP 23 is currently being held in Bonn, I thought it was interesting to present an update on one of our programs to support the fight against global warming, and aims to increase resilience to this phenomenon, which unfortunately our countries are facing as the first victims although they are in no way responsible for this situation.

Launched in 2014, this program, named Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is derived from the policies defined and put in place by the African Union, including the ComprehensiveProgram for Agricultural Development in Africa (CAADP). Our organization, NEPAD, is in charge of coordinating and implementing this platform, which should directly benefit the States involved.

Climate Smart Agriculture* is an agriculture that increases productivity, resilience and adaptation over the long term, while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This program is therefore aimed at global food security and improving nutrition in the face of climate change. The CSA program plans to strengthen the capacities of agricultural stakeholders at all levels, especially small farmers and concerned institutions. It has an ambitious goal: to reach the target of 25 million African farmers practicing climate smart agriculture by 2025.

To this end, Africa and NEPAD are leading a country-driven and regionally-integrated initiative that provides the tools and platform for hosting partnerships that deliver tangible results. The structure has borne fruit: today we have developed several successful alliances with international NGOs like CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam and World Vision, but also with four technical partners including FAO, and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), for example.

Every year for the past three years, NEPAD has been bringing together experts, representatives of our Alliance’s countries and regions, and our partners to discuss and adress the important role of agriculture in combating climate change. Today, through this program, NEPAD is seen as a source of information, innovation and knowledge production on climate change in Africa. Our platform also helps to find international funding and partnerships for states that wish to develop effective resilience policies to climate change, based in particular on agriculture. We are therefore enrolling in a concrete action that is bearing fruit.

It remains to create the tools to measure the results of this new approach in the field. The transition of agriculture sectors (including crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture) to more sustainable and climate-smart production systems is indeed starting and without doubt on the ground. We therefore first need to assess the current and future impacts of climate change in each African state, identify current and future adaptation strategies, and create a favorable environment for farmers. We must continue our efforts and launch new projects as we have done already with success in states like Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.

We are facing a long struggle, but the time has not come to give up. It’s about our future and the future of our planet.

* From the English term smart agriculture, this is an agro-ecological agriculture that not only adapts to climate change but also emits low greenhouse gas.

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.

The potential and risks of the digital economy in Africa

In its latest report on the information economy entitled “Digitization, trade and development” [i], the UNCTAD highlights the growing impact of digital technology on African economies. While Africa continues to have the lowest rate of broadband Internet penetration, it is also the fastest growing continent in the world. Big data, artificial intelligence, mobile banking and 3D printers are already transforming the ways of the old economy. But in Africa, the breakthrough of the digital economy is particularly impressive.

By 2025, the digital contribution to African GDP is expected to catch up with Sweden and Taiwan. Are we not already talking about the “leapfrogs” of Africa in digital through mobile banking, e-commerce or even e-government? Faced with its many constraints – geographical, sanitary, ecological or agricultural – Africa has had to constantly look for new models and innovate to develop. Let’s take health as an example: in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, some doctors are so rare in their specialty that they are only one per million inhabitants. Can we imagine a better opportunity to develop e-health?

Online retail is booming, with many actors benefiting fully from the dynamism of African demography and the increasing penetration of broadband Internet on the continent. Banking on this impressive growth, a company such as Jumia has gone from 35 million euros in sales in 2013 to 289 million euros in 2015. But beyond e-commerce and mobile banking, the digital economy gives rise to other projects with a collaborative dimension. This is the case, for instance, of the Agritools platform, which shares African technology initiatives to the benefit of farmers, creating a forum for high-level technological solutions for producers.

Today, Africa is forced to innovate in order to bypass its natural constraints and catch up with technological delays. But the next step in Africa is the move to “reverse innovation”. At the moment, Africa is adapting technologies from developed countries. Africa must now create its own innovations that could be adopted by developed countries.

Similarly, while the digital economy offers promising prospects for the future, we must not forget the risks associated with such a development. Several elements must be brought to our attention so that the new digital economy is inclusive and benefits the greatest number.

First of all, digital takes naturally the speed of states, which always take time to react to innovations. Governments must absolutely legislate for the protection of digital data so that the privacy of our citizens and the competitiveness of our businesses are preserved. Moreover, the digital divide is a real danger: inequalities in the use of these technologies can quickly appear between large and small companies, but also between different African countries. Finally, digital education must be placed at the heart of school curricula. The mastery of these technologies by our fellow citizens is essential in order to fully achieve the integration of Africa into the world economy.

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.