The African Continental Free Trade Area – Another Significant Milestone Towards Africa’s Integration

As a relatively young Minister in the mid-nineteen nineties sitting within my Organisation of African Union (OAU) peers, I pondered deeply if Africa will pull itself together and forge ahead.

At that time, Rwanda was coming out of its genocide and most of West Africa was still experiencing military coups. Central Africa was somewhat calm but some countries there had subtle political tensions, with what is termed the “first Congo war” taking place in the former Zaire now Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Whilst Somali’s civil war intensified, Ethiopia in Eastern Africa commenced the developmental-state experiment under Prime-Minister Meles Zanawi and Eritrea gained independence.

Norther Africa, pretty much intact with “strong” leaders steering the affairs of state and some of whom played a prominent role in the Israel-Palestinian peace process which resulted into the creation of the Palestinian National Authority. The end of apartheid and the ushering in of a democratic South Africa was the most positive highlight during this period for the OAU as it demonstrated that the OAU; as a Continental liberation movement, had achieved its ultimate goal of politically liberating Africa.

Full article

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.

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.

Africa: an emerging destination for investments

One of the major audit firms recently published its index on the attractiveness of Africa for 2017[1]. The report puts into perspective the economic trend of the continent in a rigorous and detailed way, enabling us to avoid the two pitfalls of Afro-optimism or Afro-pessimism.

It should first be noted that 2016 has been the worst year in terms of economic growth for sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years. The continent has been hardly hit by the end of the super-cycle of commodities, particularly impacting Nigeria, Angola and South Africa. The geopolitical upheavals of the West such as the Brexit and the election of Donald Trump also contributed to diminishing or at least stagnating investments from these countries which are important investors in Africa. However, while the number of FDI projects fell by 12% in 2016, they increased by 32% in value terms (reaching $ 94.1 billion), making it the second region of FDI growth at world.

Obviously, Africa is not a homogeneous bloc and in fact there are great disparities between countries. The three major countries impacted by the drop in the commodity prices mentioned above should not distract us from the bigger picture that reveals the growing young shoots in French-speaking Africa as in East Africa. While Morocco, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria attract the bulk of FDI projects (57%), other investment hubs appear. Ghana (4th), Côte d’Ivoire (7th) and Senegal (9th) attract investors, as evidenced by their ranking in the Africa Attractiveness Index. On the other side of the continent, growth is also very strong with an average of 6% for Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. These last two being boosted by the recent discoveries of oil and gas fields.

As nature abhors the vacuum, Asia-Pacific, especially China, has filled the decline in investment from the United States and Great Britain. China is now the third largest investor in terms of FDI projects in Africa, with the strongest growth in terms of jobs created. Note also the breakthrough Japan has seen its level of investment and jobs created increase by 757% and 106% respectively.

These figures, which show a real enthusiasm of investors for the African continent, remain to be relativized and taken in retrospect. Africa still receives an inadequate share of global FDI (11.4%) in terms of its population and its potential. Long coveted for its natural resources, the diversification of the African economy is underway, driven by the dynamism of sectors such as transport and logistics or the automobile. It is also worrying that the share of investment projects carried by African investors has continued to decline since 2013, falling to 15.5% in 2016. This contributes to the degradation of Africa’s resilience to external shocks ‘economy.

That Africa is attractive to foreign investors is a good thing, but it must also become an opportunity for African investors themselves! That is why we must redouble our efforts to achieve greater regional integration and a policy of reducing barriers to trade between the countries of the continent. History has shown that these choices lead not only to economic development but also to political stability, two essential objectives for ensuring the well-being of the population.

[1] EY’s Attractiveness Program Africa, « Connectivity redefined », May 2017

Let’s encourage African think tanks !

A decade ago, African think tanks were not legion but the situation has now changed: today we notice a far greater interest in joining forces to find African solutions to African problems. This phenomenon is reinforced by the fact that some of Africa’s most brilliant analytical minds, having gained some experience in the international arena, are returning home to share their knowledge with their fellow citizens. That societal trend of Africans taking more control of their own economic, political and social destinies is extremely positive for Africa’s future.

As we all know, further improvements in governance, infrastructure and education are required if we want our continent to achieve a wholesome development. I am certain that think tanks can play a key role by serving as catalysts for ideas and proposing practical solutions for policy problems. They have a specific part to play: according to K.Y. Amoako (who is also former executive secretary of UNECA), “whereas academic centres focus on contributing to the body of knowledge, think tanks not only contribute to the body of knowledge, but also take from the body of knowledge to propose real solutions to busy policymakers ». Indeed, the outcomes from the leading African think tanks are often very original and practical as they look at societies in the round rather than from single aspects such as economics and politics. Besides, think tanks that are based in Africa and mainly run by Africans have shown a greater sense of the economic reality on the ground and also stand as a bigger chance of securing the ear of governments. This is why they cannot be overlooked.

When the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) organized the 3rd Africa Think Tank Summit in partnership with the AUC, NEPAD and UNECA on 8-9 April under the theme “Creating a Sustainable Future for African Think Tanks in Support of the SDGs and Agenda 2063”, we made it clear that we needed strong and effective think tanks. Indeed, it is really important to change process in order for governments to ably mainstream the use of local think tanks to deliver on both Agenda 2063 and the 2030 SDG Agenda. This is why, during the Summit, regional organizations such as the AUC and NEPAD together with the ACBF and UNECA engaged member states on the importance of mainstreaming the function of think tanks at each step of development policies.

Think tanks can actually be efficient in various fields: for instance, the Africa Progress Panel (APP), chaired by Kofi Annan, promotes equitable and sustainable development for Africa. It produces annual reports (most recently on Africa’s energy and climate opportunities) and seeks to target decision-making audiences in Africa and all around the globe. Also, I deeply believe in the role of the ACET (African Center for Economic Transformation), an economic policy institute supporting Africa’s long-term growth through transformation. Their mission is to address some of the policy and institutional barriers that hampers sustained economic growth on the continent. They even take it further yet by advising governments through the implementation phase including strengthening their institutional capacities, as a ‘think and do tank’.

As a consequence, I would like to reaffirm my conviction that think tanks will remain an integral component in the quest for poverty reduction and sustainable development for some time to come. Today, governments need to be able to cleverly make use of think tanks’ academic and ground expertise, as they have a big role : as the continent works towards its new destiny, African thinkers are in charge. Those will build Africa’ sustainable future.

Next 10 years critical for Africa’s transformation

Following the recent World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, I have had the great honour to give an interview to the New Times journalists, Eugene Kwibuka and Anitha Kirezi.

This gave me the opportunity to emphasize that it’s time for African countries to have clear national and regional development plans and fast-track their implementation. The next 10 years are extremely critical for Africa: if we don’t achieve our transformation objectives we will fall back again.

This is why NEPAD acts every day all around the continent for Africa development : in infrastructures, for example, we have 16 projects on which we are working closely with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, and Regional Economic Communities. NEPAD’s role is to facilitate the acceleration of the implementation of these projects.

I also introduced the ‘MoveAfrica‘ initiative which aims at being the go-to place for policy advice on trade around Africa.

You will find out more about this interview here.

Liberian President Sirleaf assumes ECOWAS Chairmanship

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has assumed the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), promising to consolidate peace and security, and calling on member states to work even harder to defeat terrorism.

President Sirleaf takes over from Senegalese President Macky Sall whose hard work and ongoing commitment towards security in the region deserves a mention. President Sall has indeed achieved a great deal during this year !

I would like to wish good luck to President Sirleaf as she is going to cope with several missions whose achievement is crucial for our continent’s future : financial stability, regional integration and last but by no means least: defeat terrorism.

Indeed, ECOWAS member states will have to work even harder to beat terrorism, strengthen intelligence capacity and enhance coordination with the African Union, the United Nations and other partner institutions. Today, there is one main objective : Boko Haram must be totally defeated.

You will find more information here.

The CBN goes one step further in Lusaka

On the occasion of the AfDB 2016 Annual meetings in Lusaka, Zambia, the NEPAD co-organized the Second Continental Business Network (CBN) meetings with the African Union and the African Development Bank (AfDB) as well as a support from the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Barclays Bank. I strongly believe this initiative has the power to durably change the way Africa works.

This ambitious network serves as an exclusive infrastructure investment advisory platform engaging African policy makers and leaders in the private sector on a range of strategic issues related to infrastructure development. It is focused on the critical role that the private and public sectors need to play in de-risking infrastructure development projects identified under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

At the close of the meeting,some key recommendations and outcomes included many instrumental proposals to ensure the recruitment of competent infrastructure experts, development of local capital markets, standardizing and predictability of regulatory frameworks, de-risking priority projects through bilateral engagements with Heads of States and Government, improving incentives for institutional investments and increased transparency of funding plans and the need for reliable data.

It will be our pleasure to present the outcome of the gathering at the upcoming African Union Heads of State Summit in July in Kigali, Rwanda!

image004

NEPAD launches the MoveAfrica initiative, to bring down soft hurdles to continental trade

Today I feel honored to announce the launch of the MoveAfrica Initiative that aims to support the transformation of Africa’s trade by addressing soft issues related to cross-border transport and logistics challenges on the continent.

Indeed, we cannot hope for the industrialization of our continent without functional transport infrastructure. This requires not only a quantitative improvement of our infrastructure, but also a radical simplification and harmonization of regulatory conditions and procedures of business on the continent. For instance, it is staggering that an African businessman cannot move without a visa across the continent. This is why we are targeting in particular the laws governing cross-border transport, the regulations for crossing the border (eg. customs clearance, quarantine), and the systems and organizational resources for the operation and maintenance of “hard” infrastructure.

Current estimates indicate that the volume of trade in sub-Saharan Africa will more than triple, from 102.6 million tonnes in 2009 to 384 million tonnes by 2030, if trade corridors are completed. Thus it is essential to drive down costs and to increase efficiency for logistics companies and manufacturers in varied industries operating in Africa !

To achieve that, the MoveAfrica Initiative will kick-off key activities such as a consolidated stakeholder annual report to rank and track the continent’s ability to move goods and services, an annual stakeholder roundtable briefing, and a consultative group of business thought leaders on improving transport and logistics in Africa. The Initiative will be conducted through the process of planning, implementation and evaluation, based on intensive dialogue among a variety of key partners from public and private sectors at the highest level.

The MoveAfrica Initiative is part of the Continental Business Network (CBN). The CBN acts as an exclusive high-level private sector forum on Infrastructure Investment. It provides thought leadership on a range of strategic issues and is powered by high- level business people as well as public institution leaders.

To learn more about the program, please follow us on the Twitter accounts of NEPAD and World Economic Forum (#MoveAfrica #IndustrializeAfrica).

The mission of NEPAD? To be a driving force for Africa

Today, I want to explain what is NEPAD and what are the missions we execute every day. When I was appointed Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD in 2009, I set out to transform what was then a secretariat into a planning and coordination agency capable of leading projects on the ground. Indeed, I was convinced that what Africa needed was a driving force, an authority responsible for identifying projects and ensuring they were viable, for providing visibility for investors, for coordinating and serving as a catalyst for various initiatives while partnering with the private sector. Established under the aegis of the African Union and its 54 Member States, NEPAD serves this exact purpose, and want to be a catalyst for African integration.

This long-term vision for Africa is underpinned by six main pillars of development, that are key to meeting the continent’s development challenges.

First, there is agriculture, food, and nutrition security: in this field, NEPAD pursues a proactive approach to agricultural policy and works with over 40 nations across Africa through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, which promotes sustainable changes in agriculture practices.

The second pillar concerns climate change and natural resource management, for which NEPAD helps countries to coordinate and promote regional and national programs designed to curb these threats.

The third pillar is about regional integration and infrastructure. Integration isn’t an end in itself: I firmly believe that it’s a prerequisite for the development of our continent. Indeed, how can we connect our countries to the power grid and lay asphalt on our roads without coordinating each country’s efforts?

The fourth pillar concerns human development: it is what makes economic growth possible. NEPAD plays an active part in efforts to eradicate poverty on the continent by developing synergy in areas vital to human development, including education, science, technology and healthcare.

Besides, moving forward with development and regional integration in Africa requires an environment conducive to good governance at both the micro- and macroeconomic levels: this is what the fifth pillar is about.

In addition to the five theme areas presented above, NEPAD focuses its efforts on several fundamental, cross-cutting issues: private-sector involvement, gender & development, capacity development and information and communication technologies (ICTs).

As such, NEPAD is active in every area of development, taking
 a long-term approach to developing key infrastructure, defining framework agricultural policies and bolstering capacity-building at a national level, while also pursuing short-term initiatives to combat crises requiring emergency measures, such as piracy and the Ebola epidemic. We have to continually anticipate future development challenges in Africa to stay ahead of the curve.

From coast to coast, we are beginning to break ground on the first major projects led by NEPAD. I would like to single out five of these initiatives that will be completed in a matter of years: the Abidjan-Lagos corridor; the Dakar-Bamako rail link; two hydroelectric dams, Sambangalou in Guinea and Ruzizi III in Rwanda; and the road from Serenje to Nakonde in Zambia.

These projects are only the first chapter in a story that we shall write together. For more information about the challenges that lie before us and how NEPAD intends to meet them, please feel free to visit our website. I am convinced that together we will realise our dream of an African continent whose countries are open both to each other and to the world.

35N-POSTER-AFRIQUE-VF-V2