Infrastructure: the way forward

Considering its role as the Development agency of the African Union, the NEPAD welcomes the Compact with Africa put forward by the G20. First because it acknowledges that the aid model is not the solution to meet our continent’s development challenges. This is not a question of saying whether aid is good or bad. Aid is simply not enough. Just one figure to substantiate this: we believe that Africa needs between US$130bn and US$170bn to develop its infrastructure each year. But the total aid it receives each year does not amount to much more than US$60bn. In this sense, the Compact is in line with Africa’s objective to attract more private investment.

There is one other essential dimension in the Compact with Africa, which is to consider projects on a regional scale. The NEPAD has long been advocating that optimal solutions are found at the regional level and not at the national one. We must think in terms of cross- border corridors, be it in energy or communication corridors. The regional dimension is vital and must get greater attention. Infrastructure covering several countries in the same region is also more attractive to investors (both public and private) because it allows the pooling of costs and promotes integration.

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Interview with African Business

Launched amid much fanfare by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and other continental luminaries in 2001, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) promised a fresh era of progress through a dynamic agency freed from the constraints of Africa’s tired leadership structures. With lofty goals to “eradicate poverty, promote sustainable growth and development, integrate Africa in the world economy, and accelerate the empowerment of women,” the agency capitalised on the excitement of an international community transfixed by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. “We are essentially saying that surely the time has come that as the African continent we should say [there must be] an end to the underdevelopment of the continent, an end to the poverty and there must be an end to conflict,” Mbeki boldly proclaimed in 2002.

Today, NEPAD’s Planning and Coordination Agency – soon to become the African Union Development Agency – is attempting to carve out a new role for itself in a very different landscape. With Mbeki and other high-profile backers retired from the scene, chief executive Ibrahim Mayaki, a former prime minister of Niger, faces a battle to prove NEPAD’s relevance on a continent where multi-billion dollar infrastructure schemes and the private sector are seen as the crucial drivers of development. 

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Infrastructure: We must find alternatives to state funding

On October 16 2018, the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo announced the signing of an Inga 3 project exclusive development agreement with two consortia (Chinese and Spanish). This is a milestone for Africa. After eight years of studies and discussions, this hydroelectric dam project on the Congo River will finally enter its operational phase.

Inga 3 is a project designed to lead to an extra production of 11,000 megawatts (MW) of clean renewable, permanently available energy that will benefit the entire power grid in the region. The benefits of this project will be felt as far as in South Africa. The China Inga 3, a consortium including Chinese and European companies, plans to invest $14 billion. If all goes well, Inga 3 will be the largest hydroelectric project ever built on the continent. It will also showcase opportunities offered by public partnerships for infrastructure development in Africa, as well as regional integration.

Infrastructure deficit is one of the most serious problems our continent faces. It is most obvious in the  energy sector – although 145 million people on the African continent have been able to connect to electricity since the beginning of the millennium, 645 million Africans are still deprived of it. How can we expect to start a virtuous circle of industrialization if the most basic prerequisite – access to affordable energy – is not fulfilled?

We estimate that the annual investment threshold for Africa’s infrastructure deficit is $120 billion. As of now, annual investment stands at about fifty billion only. The continent now devotes a little more than 4% of its GDP to infrastructure equipment. This is better than ten years ago when it dropped to 2%. But it is still less than in China, where this proportion is up to 14%. There are also major differences between countries and the structure of their economies, depending on their exposure to commodity prices in particular.

This lack of infrastructure carries big costs. When economies are isolated, they become less attractive, since unified markets on a regional scale are difficult to create. Inadequate infrastructure increases production costs, weighs on business’s competitiveness and negatively impacts foreign direct investment. Still, Africa must create 450 million jobs over the next twenty years to absorb its population growth. World Bank studies have shown that infrastructure deficit costs the continent two points of annual growth and generates a 40% shortfall in competitiveness gains for its enterprises.

Having stated the fact, we need to think about solutions. Be it in energy or communication corridors, the regional dimension is essential and must receive the greatest attention. Infrastructure covering several countries in the same region is more attractive to investors (both public and private) because it allows the pooling of costs and promotes integration. In 2012, the African Union set up an African Infrastructure Development Program (PIDA) managed jointly by the NEPAD Agency and the African Development Bank (AfDB). Its roadmap focuses on structuring cross-border projects, numbering 51, for a total package of $360 billion. They are the pivot of the continent’s real economic takeoff.

The approach chosen by PIDA is highly original in that it anchors the projects exclusively on Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Indeed, the real question is not whether to invest more, but rather, who should invest more? Again we say, ‘Africa must first rely on its own means and resources to carry out its development.’ But is this true in the infrastructure domain? The answer is ‘yes,’ but with some reservations. Investment in infrastructure is an absolute necessity, but it must not be to the detriment of other equally important programs such as investment in education, health or agriculture. Therefore, association with the private sector on the one hand, and international cooperation on the other hand, are credible alternatives to state funding. This is the solution that, as the NEPAD Agency, we never stop recommending, and this is the solution DRC authorities have chosen to adopt with the Inga 3 project.

Therefore, the key issue lies in private sector participation in the major PIDA projects, in the promotion of requisite regional integration. In this regard, the NEPAD Agency launched the “5% Agenda” in 2017. This campaign aims to raise awareness and mobilize the African financial sector and encourage African insurance companies and pension funds to invest at least 5% of their investment portfolio to infrastructure. Currently the allocation is only 1.5%. The growth margins are considerable because the amount of assets under management held by African pension funds, insurance companies, and institutional investors stands at $1.1 trillion. In addition to its exemplary nature, the “5% Agenda” realization will act as a positive signal; not only will it reduce the perception of risk on the continent, it will also leverage the private sector and international partners participation in the financing of major African infrastructure. These are more than likely to spur regional integration.

THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THE RURAL AREA

African Agriculture Facing Challenges of Entrepreneurship. We need to challenge the traditional sources of financing and investment in the agricultural sector and introduce alternative, innovative private sector financing methods.

Not a week goes by without a trade show or newspaper article dedicated to African agriculture. The topics range from the untapped potential of African agriculture and the challenges of rural development to the benefits of introducing agriculture that is better adapted to the impending climate changes. This is a refreshing and significant change of perspective. After all, African agriculture has been suffering for a very long time and is still haunted by the image of stagnation and backwardness. Reinforcing the significance of urban elites and the rural exodus that began in the 1970s and continued through the 1980s have contributed immensely to this image of the backwards African farmer, suggesting that the cities are the future of the continent.

One in four Africans is suffering from chronic malnutrition. This is a truly paradoxical situation given the resources our continent has.

However, the numbers today speak volumes about the importance and potential of African agriculture. The agricultural sector accounts for about 60 percent of jobs within the African continent and amounts to 25 percent of its GDP. At the same time, Africa has over 600 million hectares of arable land, which corresponds to 65 percent of the uncultivated farmland in the world. There is a lot of talk about land grabbing and the impact of large agro-industrial corporations, which should certainly not be underestimated. However, in this context people often forget that in Africa more than 80 percent of the 51 million farms are less than two hectares in size.

Harnessing this potential has become all the more urgent given the fact that Africa imported $35 billion worth of food in 2016. One in four Africans is suffering from chronic malnutrition. This is a truly paradoxical situation given the resources our continent has. Population growth is also forcing rural areas to become central to the development strategy of our continent. It is estimated that approximately 20 million people enter the labour market each year, of which 12 million live in rural areas. In order to integrate this labour force, agriculture and rural development must therefore become priority by transforming rural areas into economically prosperous areas.

The challenge is to create value chains that make it possible for smallholders and farms to build a competitive and sustainable ecosystem, which will lay the foundations for integrative economic growth in Africa. In my book ‘L’Afrique à l’heure des choix’ (has not been published in English, but loosely translates to ‘Africa’s Critical Choices’), I address several possibilities to change and modernise African agriculture, and I stress the importance of emphasising agricultural entrepreneurship.

It is paramount that we explain to our youth that farmers are entrepreneurs like any other. Like every entrepreneur, they have to manage the workflow, financial matters, the role of new technologies, the security and diversification of assets (preparation for set-aside farmland, use of parcels, etc.). However, promoting these jobs requires a massive investment programme to open new agricultural schools. Vocational training programmes need to be enhanced, just as we do for ‘normal’ entrepreneurship.

However, promoting agricultural entrepreneurship would not make sense without simultaneous safeguards and incentives (including legal and fiscal/tax benefits) to motivate farmers to create added value. Generally speaking, we need to challenge the traditional sources of financing and investment in the agricultural sector and introduce alternative, innovative private sector financing methods. Thanks to their holistic, collaborative and strategic approach as well as their multilateral management style, these innovative financing options contribute to increased productivity and agricultural development: Private investments are mobilised and market weaknesses are balanced out.

A reform of the land register and land rights is essential.

At the same time, the meteoric rise in mobile phone usage in Africa offers many opportunities for innovation that can change and improve the financing of rural development. Nigeria and Kenya, for example, were the first countries to introduce a system whereby subsidies for the purchase of fertiliser are distributed directly to farmers. This was made possible by partnering with mobile technology companies and network providers.

Finally, a reform of the land register and land rights is essential. Land titles granted as part of a system of land tenure are all too often a luxury for most African farmers and are also discriminatory against women. Proper introduction of these systems is an incentive for farmers to invest in their production resources and to introduce good work practices. Land ownership is always a hot topic in Africa; hence, protecting the land rights is paramount to building inclusive, resilient and sustainable communities.

Promotion of agricultural entrepreneurship requires deep rethinking and important reforms of our state policies regarding the education and training of young farmers, the reform of the land register, access to new financing methods, and increased use of new information and communication technologies (NICT) in the agricultural sector. This is the agricultural and innovative Africa we hope to see in the near future.

More on Welt ohne hunger

Tokyo Dispatch: Japan Wants To Become Africa’s Preferred Innovation Partner

“My advice to Japanese firms investing in Africa? Look for the countries where states have created a robust innovation ecosystem,” Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) told Japanese and African public and private sector participants in an informal session on  innovation in Africa, held at the Tokyo UN University on August 2.

“An ‘innovation’ is usually defined as a new product or technology, or significant improvements to an existing product or process.  The key word in there,” Mayaki said, “is ‘significant’. How do African countries grow innovations that change not only the way Africans live and transact, but impact the world at large? Particularly when in most cases, innovation is limited to a single industry or sector – and the state plays at best a minor role in encouraging productivity advances.

Read the full article on Forbes.

High level advocacy for nutrition in Africa

Recognising the debilitating effects of hidden hunger, African governments and stakeholders have over the years been implementing several strategic interventions. Among the interventions are food fortification, dietary diversification, vitamin and mineral supplementation, public health interventions such as deworming and of late, biofortification.

As part of their efforts to promote Food and Nutrition Security for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), organised a one-day high level advocacy event the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) in Cairo, Egypt. During the event, it was noted that increased efforts and support from governments and stakeholders to improve nutrition and food systems are still needed. ‘Embracing food-based approaches including biofortification in national and regional agriculture and nutrition policies, strategies, programmes and investment plans,’ was the theme of this event.

H.E Hon Kone Gognon, Chairperson of the PAP Committee on Agriculture opened the meeting and stressed that the theme for the meeting was pertinent, with a focus on ensuring food and nutrition security. He pointed out that biofortification was already flagged as crucial in Africa.

Speaking on behalf of the FARA Executive Director, Dr Abdulrazak Ibrahim stated that FARA recognises the debilitating effects of hidden hunger, and highlighted FARA’s efforts, over the last years, in mainstreaming FNSSA within the National Agricultural and Innovation System (NAIS). This was echoed by Dr Rose Omari, from FARA’s Building Nutritious Food Basket project, who elucidated the fact that micronutrient deficiency and its consequences are not widely known, asthis is ‘hidden hunger.’ “Therefore,” Dr Omari said, “Enhancing micronutrients content of staple crops during production is a critical intervention.”

Ms Bibi Giyose, Senior Advisor on Nutrition, spoke on behalf of the NEPAD Agency’s CEO, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki. She brought to the fore the fact that nutrition should not be viewed as a technical issue, as it also has political, structural and numerous other dimensions that dictate the need to find multi-sectorial solutions.

Prof Francis Zotor from the University of Health and Allied Sciences and African Nutrition Society, expressed a similar sentiment with a call to strengthen synergies in moving the nutrition agenda forward on the continent.

Present at the event were legislators from the following countries: Central African Republic; Coted’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

It was concluded that while hidden hunger is real, reversing it is also possible. Increasing micronutrient content of commonly consumed foods through biofortification, especially to improve nutritional status of low income households will go a long way in redressing hidden hunger. African Parliamentarians were called upon to follow up on declarations made by governments to ensure their implementation.

NEPAD-JICA annual partnership dialogue

Picture of Dr Mayaki with the President of JICA, Dr Kitaoka.

Via The NEPAD Agency’s website:

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, NEPAD Agency’s CEO, led a delegation to Japan to attend NEPAD-JICA annual dialogue from 28 July to 5 August. The objective of NEPAD-JICA annual partnership dialogue was to discuss the progress made and future plans for further cooperation. The dialogue this year focussed on future joint works towards the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) 7 which will be held in Japan, in 2019.

Several meetings were held with key Japanese institutions with whom the NEPAD Agency has been building strategic partnerships, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Keizai-Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and African Ambassadors in Tokyo- African Diplomatic Corps (ADC), in order to exchange opinions on critical regional issues for development in Africa and further strengthen ties with them. In addition, the TICAD Joint Monitoring Committee was also held during the same week in Tokyo and the NEPAD Agency was invited to attend the meeting as a member of the committee by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

The African Ambassadors in Tokyo, African Diplomatic Corps (ADC) have been proactively involved in the TICAD preparations and continues to work with all stakeholders, in particular with the MOFA and the AU, towards the success of TICAD 7to be held in Yokohama, 2019. TICAD is raising the partnership between Japan and Africa to a new level, with both sides expressing willingness to work together toward the realisation of Agenda 2063. In this regard, the ADC are of the view that the TICAD process should remain an African developmental forum.

At the JICA seminar facilitated by the JICA Senior Vice President for Africa, Mr Hiroshi Kato, Dr Mayaki’s presentation focussed on ‘Africa’s position in the Global Society and Way Forward: Towards the achievement of Agenda 2063.’ Dr Mayaki highlighted the following: Transitions that Africa is going through today; Africa’s different perceptions by thought thinkers and economist; and shaping the future.

The NEPAD-JICA Annual Partnership Dialogue, held at the JICA Head Quarters centred on key commitments and policy priorities identified in the memorandum of cooperation between JICA and NEPAD including the plans for TICAD7. Sectorial Sessions included Infrastructure (water, energy, and corridor developments), the Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa and the Africa Kaizen Initiative.

Other technical working engagements included meetings with Keizai-Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives) and Mr Tetsuro Yano, President of the Association of African Economy and Development, where framework of Africa’s Well-being Initiative was discussed. Dr Mayaki delivered a lecture on challenges and prospects of ‘African Business-from Kaizen to Innovation,’ at the UN University. A meeting was also held at the JBIC on investment in Africa.

The next steps will entail implementing the recommendations the annual dialogue in three key areas: regional infrastructure, nutrition (through Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa) and industrialisation (through Kaizen) with regular monitoring of progress towards the next annual meeting in South Africa (2019) and the TICAD 7 in Yokohama.

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS AFRICA RIGHT UP TO ITS MOST ANCIENT SYMBOLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s centenary and his legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEPAD to become the African Union Development Agency

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

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

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

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

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

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