A view from Gambia

Earlier this month I had the privilege to address a Ministerial Cabinet retreat of The Gambia. Some of you might recall that The Gambia was embroiled in a serious political impass between December 2016 and January 2017, and as you may remember the then president conceded defeat then changed his mind. Such an action if left unchecked could have culminated into a massive civil and political unrest in The Gambia with a potential spill-over into the neighbouring countries of Senegal and Guinea Bissau.

Certainly some level of divine intervention together with a well-coordinated approach by ECOWAS and the United Nations- potential disastrous ramifications of the former president’s actions was totally averted, and now The Gambia has set out an agenda to unify its people and re-ignite the economy and so on.

My address to President Adam Barrow of The Gambia and his cabinet, highlighted the principles of governance amongst others. But more specifically, I underscored the need for the president and his team of cabinet ministers to serve the people of The Gambia by providing and guaranteeing their security, protecting their welfare, meeting their basic needs, increasing their wellbeing and protecting the weak and vulnerable. Governments must do those things that give the people confidence, contentment, happiness and hope. My advice to them was that they must respond to the needs of their people for education and skills development, health, employment and social protection.

A responsible government must create the space to allow people to participate freely in the processes of governance. I emphasised to President Barrow that he and his team must build and maintain strong institutions of democracy and ensure that they strictly observe the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Furthermore, I sited the Singapore experience and also noted the significant strides that Rwanda is undertaking with regards to economic transformation and attracting private investments.

I concluded my address to the Gambian Cabinet by encouraging them to have a regional approach to doing things and I asked them to reflect deeply on where does The Gambia want to fit in Africa’s transformative agenda. And how quickly is the political leadership ready to establish a road map to achieving such a vision.

 

Africa poised for greatness — but governments must act fast

I am sharing an excellent article from Carlos Lopes on how Africa is underestimated :

Conventional wisdom tells us that the Chinese are buying up Africa faster than any other investors. It tells us that African banking lags in terms of innovation and reliability and that no African country is at the forefront of global innovation.

But conventional wisdom is often wrong and it is important to recognise that we don’t have the Africa we think we have.

What do I mean? Perhaps we can start by noting that China is actually only Africa’s third-biggest investor. The second? France. India is hot on its heels too. If that surprises you, wait until you learn that more than 50% of the world’s mobile banking happens on the continent, with Kenya taking the lion’s share globally.

MORE THAN 50% OF THE WORLD’S MOBILE BANKING HAPPENS ON THE CONTINENT, WITH KENYA TAKING THE LION’S SHARE

I enjoy these kinds of shock statistics, most recently sharing them with an audience of South African Institute of International Affairs members during an address on “World changes affecting Africa”, a talk I have also given to UN leaders, Chatham House and African Union foreign ministers.

Full article here

African states and climate disruptions

Every region in the world is affected by climate change but Africa is still the most exposed continent. According to the 2015 climate change vulnerability index, seven of the ten countries that are under the highest threat, are located in Africa.

It is an unfair and ironic situation considering that the African continent only plays a minimal role in triggering the climate crisis. But this is the reality: the challenge of climate change is far more intense in Africa than elsewhere, because of the fragility of its food-processing system and economic model.

It is a dreadful observation but populations that are the most remote from globalisation, both in terms of responsibility and simple geography, are its first victims.
Africa suffers from climate warming that is 1,5 time higher than global average, with many worrying consequences. Its ecosystem, which is already weakened, makes the African continent less resilient to potential climate shocks, even though the frequency, intensity and length of external phenomena – droughts, flooding and others – are more intense.

These disruptions are a direct threat to agriculture and livestock farming, key economic sectors and food security. Ultimately, millions of people may lose their means of subsistence.

The urgency of addressing the challenges of climate change imposes a dual approach: reducing the causes and adapting to the consequences.

It is difficult for African countries to reduce their emissions:  those produced by the continent’s rare industries are negligible compared to those of our planet’s high polluters.

The African continent as a whole distributes 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, against 24% for China and 13% for the United States.
Adapting is an absolute priority but it has a cost. Today, it is estimated between 7 and 15 billion dollars a year and it will increase to 35 billion by 2040. Is the international community ready to increase its financial support to help Africa? There is a risk that the continent will go back to the starting point… having to face the devastating effects, in every sense of the word, of change climate.

Of course, there have been a few philanthropic initiatives from across the world to help the African people but the funding that has been granted turns out to be clearly insufficient.

Africa is therefore left on its own and has no other choice than to adapt. Paradoxically, this could prove to be an opportunity. African countries need to regroup and mutually learn from their experiences in order to adopt new approaches and develop new and more efficient strategies.

The continent needs to review its development model. It needs to plan and implement concrete adaptation measures, strengthen its resilience, review its food system, implement green economies that can resist to climate change, improve climate monitoring and meteorology. It is also an opportunity for African political and economic players to unite and adopt a common position in international negotiations in order to get adequate technical and financial support.

International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda 7 April 2017

In making strides towards the goal of transforming our continent into “The Africa We Want” – a peaceful, strong and united Africa, reflection on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda reminds us that we cannot take our peace and security for granted.

Current and past events in African and around the world, as evidenced by the high number of people displaced by war, conflict or persecution, which now stands at almost 60 million, builds a strong case for prevention of conflict to come to the fore in all that we do. Prevention has become an essential aspect of foreign policy due to the nature of today’s conflicts, their growing complexity and the fact that conflicts are more intra-state than inter-state. Moreover, the presence of powerful non-state actors and violent extremisms all make it necessary to strengthen early warning and preventive diplomacy mechanisms.

On the African continent, efforts for peace are on the increase, as demonstrated by an ever growing number of peaceful transitions of power, with recent examples being Nigeria, Ghana, Cape Verde, to mention but a few.  At the beginning of the 1990s, there were approximately thirty ongoing conflicts, but now they have been reduced to about a dozen. In addition, we are also witnessing Africa’s integration through regional and continental efforts, under a direct manifestation of the “ownership principle” that is the cornerstone of an African prevention and development policy embedded in the African Union.

Reflecting on Rwanda today, the words of Wole Soyinka ring true:

“Given the scale of trauma caused by the genocide, Rwanda has indicated that however thin the hope of a community can be, a hero always emerges. Although no one can dare claim that it is now a perfect state, and that no more work is needed, Rwanda has risen from the ashes as a model of truth and reconciliation.”

Together with Africa’s 1.2 billion people, the NEPAD Agency commemorates the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, in order to eventually see a continent where all guns are silenced, a continent in which its people flourish in a culture of human rights, democracy, gender equality, inclusion and peace.

World Water Day : 22 March 2017

The critical importance of water in daily living cannot be overemphasised. World Water Day, an international day that celebrates freshwater, was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

In Agenda 2063, Africa’s 50 year development strategy, Africans expressed in Aspiration number 1, the desire to see “a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.”  This aspiration is underpinned by the wish to see an Africa in which its “cities and other settlements are hubs of cultural and economic activities, with modernised infrastructure, and its people have access to all the basic necessities of life, including shelter, water and sanitation.”

Key to Africa’s inclusive growth and sustainable development is the equitable and sustainable use and management of water resources for socio-economic development, regional cooperation and the environment.

The best way to push water and sanitation up on the political agenda is to find an obvious way to link water to development. This is why Goal 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for clean water and sanitation for all. That SDG has 8 major targets to reach by 2030. Among them we find a commitment to “protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.”

That commitment is not something that people (and by extent governments) should consider as redundant. Indeed, water scarcity must be considered as a top priority risk: It is at the same time a major constraint to socio-economic development of nations, a growing problem for businesses, and a threat to growth and stability on a global scale. Thus, it is far from being a minor problem.

This is the reason why it is inconceivable to act with short-term financial interest as the only goal and not to look on consequences on the environment and water conservation. For instance, water is critical for successful climate change mitigation, as many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions depend on reliable access to water resources.  This year’s focus on wastewater points to the need to reduce and reuse wastewater as a valuable resource.  Increasing water recycling and safe reuse of wastewater is a key component of sustainable water management – that will go a long way in enabling us to have “The Africa We Want!”

We have a long way to go before water scarcity problems are solved across the globe but it is our strategic interest to act now, on our continent. I urge all stakeholders to rally together and get things done. Water is not a secondary issue – it is a social, human, and economic issue. Water is the lifeline for the 1.2 billion people living in Africa.

The farmer, an entrepreneur like any other

African agriculture is no longer a traditional way of life, it is a business. And like any other, it will grow, through investment and access to markets. The African farmer, like any other entrepreneur, and perhaps even more so, needs to take into account the uncertain nature of business. The farmer will be at the mercy of market flux and climate change. They will need to access finance, manage their own accounts, and diversify their assets, or perish.

The energy, the ideas and the motivation are there but not every good idea will be funded. The continent has yet to produce enough productive and profitable small businesses. According to the World Bank sub-Saharan Africa has only a quarter as many small businesses as Asia, relative to its population. Government borrowing drives up interest rates for everybody else. Interest rates to farmers in parts of East and West Africa can be as high as 20-45%. The World Bank found that only 1% of Nigerian farmers borrowed to buy fertiliser last year since small farmers find credit access difficult. But mobile technology is changing this, opening new and more advantageous lending rates to farmers. Governments and investors are also channelling huge investments into infrastructure and power, initiatives facilitated by NEPAD.

There are also many opportunities to be exploited in doing simple things for local markets. Better management skills, more judicious use of fertilisers are key skills that can be made widely available. Hybrid seeds, in particular, which are being developed in Africa for Africans, hold much promise. Governments and NGOs are rapidly teaching farmers how to plant the new seeds. One-stop-shops such as the charity One Acre Fund, in Rwanda, provide their clients with seeds, fertiliser, know-how and credit. Creating facilities to allow farmers to store crops securely and the opportunity for food processing near farms will help reduce waste as well as provide decent paying jobs.

Social networks are also primordial to the success of entrepreneurial farmers. There is a correlation between strong social networks and flourishing business. Our role models need to be flagged especially in those areas where there are few successful companies that would-be entrepreneurs can aspire to, or few successful friends in business who can be sought out for advice.

We have witnessed a different kind of farmer through the success story of Rotimi Williams, the ambitious 35 year-old Nigerian entrepreneur and rice farmer. Previously a journalist, Williams is the owner of Kereksuk Rice Farm, the second largest commercial rice farm in Nigeria by land size. Having lived and worked abroad for a while, he returned to Nigeria with no farming training but with a willingness to learn. He trained himself through every article he could find on Google and then put these skills into practice. His farm of 45,000 hectares employs today more than 600 locals, leveraging on a sense of community and remaining attuned to the cultural approach of the indigenes to farming.

Agriculture is a business and promoting smallholder agriculture does not preclude the promotion of ambitious large scale, commercial farming for Africa.

 

 

 

Unleashing the potential of the private sector – whereby the informal economy traces the way forward

In every African neighbourhood, in every family almost, there is an entrepreneur with a side business who seeks funding from a tontine. Africa has more than 50 million micro small and medium businesses which contribute 33 % of the continent’s GDP . Today, the informal sector in Africa is not just a label, it is an established way of life, a tradition. Many of our big African enterprises started off small in the informal sector. NEPAD seeks to respond to the expectations of citizens in all matters of public service. One of our priorities is to nurture a dialogue between the public and the private sectors with the view to removing the hurdles to entrepreneurship and have the higher possible impact on the ground.

Although in the past, little attention has been paid to the role of the informal sector in fostering growth, the informal economy in Africa is big business, it is a huge employer and will continue to play a key role in the future development of Africa. It represents about three-quarters of non-agricultural employment across the continent, and about 72% of total employment in sub-Saharan Africa .

Here are some trends that we need to take into account if we are to find ways of unleashing the full potential of the informal sector:

– the informal sector in most African economies offers opportunities to the most vulnerable populations such as the poorest, women and youth;
– people with higher levels of education are entering the informal sector as a career of choice;
– a closer look at the informal sector in Africa provides a glimpse of what could be achieved if Africa’s economies and financial policies were more attuned to the continent’s realities;
– the informal economy is often community-based in the spirit of social entrepreneurship, tapping into an indigenous African collectivist mode.

However, although the informal sector is an opportunity for generating reasonable incomes for many people, it continues to overlap with poverty because it does not cater for secure income, employments benefits and social protection. The way forward, therefore, lies in organizing the informal sector and recognizing its contribution to economic development by raising government awareness, allowing better access to financing, and disseminating information on the sector.

Formalization goes hand in hand with the fear of taxes. Governments have a role to play in helping to nip this fear in the bud. In a context where better cellular telecommunication and access to cheap smartphones are a reality, we need to encourage informal sector workers to embrace modern technology, the internet and social media. For example, ICT and Fintech offer innovative administrative solutions which can make insurance available to our entrepreneurs. Access to financial services allows people to earn and save more, build their assets and protect themselves against external shocks. But financial inclusion also needs to be supported by education, skills development and training (including financial literacy) focused on sectors such as agriculture, food production and rural manufacturing. Finally, virtual platforms have the potential to provide the informal sector with greater visibility, voice and representation.

The informal sector has become a major driver of economic opportunity and innovation and NEPAD remains determined to enhance the transitional intersection to the formal economy for a beneficial impact on all actors.

Why it is important to ensure access to water and sanitation for all?

Today, the figures are still horrific: 663 million people do not have reasonable access to safe drinking water and nearly 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services (toilets or latrines). Besides, 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diseases.

The impact of these figures is devastating to health and quality of life for many people, especially the poorest. However, it is sad to see that sometimes water and sanitation are still not top priorities for some African governments, despite overwhelming evidence that a country’s development and people’s wellbeing depends on efficient use of water. Therefore, it is crucial to act and to implement strong measures: let us remind that it is not only a human and social matter! It is also an economic one: for instance, people who will not have access to toilets at work and at home will have poorer health leading to absenteeism, reduced concentration, exhaustion and decreased productivity!

The best way to push water and sanitation up to the political agenda is to find an obvious way to link water to development. This is why Goal 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for clean water and sanitation for all. That SDG has 8 major targets to reach by 2030. Among them we find a commitment to “protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes”. That commitment is not something that people (and by extent governments) should consider as redundant. Indeed, water scarcity must be considered as a top priority risk: it is at the same time a major constraint to socio-economic development of nations, a growing problem for businesses, and a threat to growth and stability on a global scale. Thus, it is far from being a minor problem!

This is the reason why it is inconceivable to act with short-term financial interest as only goal and not to look on consequences on the environment and water conservation. For instance, water is critical for successful climate change mitigation, as many efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions depend on reliable access to water resources. Besides, if we want to think in an economic way, increasing water conservation (which means getting to the source of the problem) would reduce the need for infrastructure to be erected to get water. Let’s tackle deforestation and urbanization! It will also result to less money spent on healthcare for water pollution-related illnesses.

We have a long way to go before the water scarcity problems are solved across the globe but it is our strategic interest to act now, on our continent. Programs such as the UN’s Sustainable Development goal for sustainable management of water and sanitation or COP22 are a huge step in the direction of water conservation for all. I urge all the stakeholders to gather to get things done, now. Water is not a secondary matter : it is a social, human, and economic issue. It is crucial for our development.

 

 

“Grow Africa”: NEPAD’s winning formula for agriculture in Africa

While farming across the continent remains precarious with variable weather, little irrigated land and the unpredictability of climate change, things are improving rapidly in the agricultural sector in Africa. In the last 5 years, grain production has tripled or more in Ethiopia, Mali and Zambia, with a real success story in Rwanda. Coordinated efforts at national, regional and continental level have helped to boost agricultural productivity. Agriculture today accounts for 32% of GDP in Africa. If offers potential for poverty reduction and job creation. There is a clear opportunity for increasing economic growth through a “smart” and coordinated approach to agriculture in Africa.

The Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), launched in 2003, has driven commitments by 42 African governments to increase public spending on agriculture. 14 of the 42 member states of the African Union have signed up to CAADP and have met or exceeded a national investment target of 10% of public resources into agriculture. But Africa has not achieved the second CAADP target, of a 6% increase in agricultural GDP. And currently, prohibitive lending rates prove to be a major hurdle to small-to-medium-sized agribusinesses. Public-sector investment is, clearly, not going to be enough.

We will need strong collaboration between government, the private sector, and development partners. Our national leaders need to demonstrate that they are championing local agriculture as part of their national development plan and that they are proactive in injecting their own resources into agriculture. We need to ensure the implementation of policy agreed upon and quickly address any gaps identified between the roadmap and practice. We will, indeed, only attract greater private-sector investment if we have the right policy environment with all stakeholders demonstrating strong leadership and accountability.

Grow Africa, co-founded in 2011 by the African Union Commission, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum, and now hosted by NEPAD, has emerged as a proven model for public-private sector collaboration at national and continental level. Grow Africa is an African-owned, country-led, market-based platform for cross-sector collaboration to increase inclusive and responsible investment in African agriculture. It has helped generate a private-sector investment commitment to agriculture of over $10 billion. Of that committed investment, $2.5 billion has been implemented between 2013 and 2015, benefiting more than 10 million smallholder farmers and creating over 88,000 jobs. This has a knock on effect on growth in general across the continent.

As Africa builds on a strong agricultural sector, we seize our own food market opportunity and capture a higher share of value from increased demand from urban consumers. This allows us to redress the tide of urbanization, which could tip the balance from food producers to food consumers and, thus, ensure food security. Structural and sustainable development in the agricultural sector also means that we can provide hope and opportunities for rural youth. Schemes under Grow Africa are providing them with incomes and protecting them against the threats of radicalization. Grow Africa helps to create social cohesion for Africans.

Grow Africa has proved to be a unique model for forging the connections between the public and private sectors needed to support the growth of the agriculture sector and unlock investment opportunities. Here are some of the most prominent examples of Grow Africa’s work, leveraging on multistakeholder platforms. In Nigeria and Ivory Coast, Grow Africa is working with multiple partners including ECOWAS, the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) and the John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation to establish national platforms for promoting the domestic production of rice. Currently, over 50% of Nigeria’s and slightly under 50% of Ivory Coast’s domestic demand for rice is imported, despite ideal climatic conditions for growing the commodity.

In Ghana, Mozambique and Nigeria, Grow Africa is moving forward on the opportunity to supply cassava for industrial use. This represents a market opportunity of almost $150 million annually across the three countries. Supplying cassava for industrial use is estimated to improve farmer incomes by 50-300%.

Over 70% of the investments Grow Africa supports are made by agribusinesses headquartered in Africa, many of them small to medium sized businesses which are the backbone of the African agricultural economy. Grow Africa supports these companies by linking them to partners, including International food companies that are looking to source produce locally for local markets.

Agriculture is an essential tool for firing economic growth across the African continent and Grow Africa has found a winning formula to accelerate this process. Let’s keep up the momentum.