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.


Manifesto for 2017

Dear friends, I was keen to send you, today itself, my very best wishes for 2017. May this year be rich, full of promise and may all your projects be met with success.

This is a pivotal year for our continent, indeed, it will be marked by a change of leadership at the head of the African Union. Heads of African States and Governments will have the task of choosing a new President for the African Union commission during the 28th Summit at Addis Ababa in January. This summit follows on from Kigali where we count a number of success stories, especially the launch of the African passport, decisions taken on the financing of the African Union as well as the free-exchange continental zone. President Kagame has been designated on this occasion to lead reform at the African Union, reform that is indispensable if the African Union is to respond fully to the aspirations of Africans and execute Agenda 2063 in an efficient and poignant manner.

On this basis, I am very pleased that the exchanges among the different contenders have been democratic and transparent. This first televised debate has, in my opinion, reinforced even more the legitimacy of the African Union in the eyes of our citizens by allowing them to hear the perspectives of the different candidates and to form their own opinion. This flows in the spirit of good governance and it is one we can only be very pleased about.

Furthermore, I wish to offer my thanks and congratulations to Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for her leadership and her determination which have enabled a number of matters to evolve very positively. I am thinking, in particular, of the widening of the African Union with the reintegration of a great African country in the midst of Pan-African bodies. This is an event of great importance because, on one hand, Africa needs the input of countries like Morocco to support democratic transitions, promote Human Rights and, in particular, women’s rights on the continent. On the other hand, the input of the sharifian Kingdom will be indispensable to the realisation of the goals fixed in the context of the 2063 Agenda. Let us rejoice, therefore, in this restored unity and let us be confident that this reunion will bear numerous successes.

We must indeed maintain and keep improving on what we have started: I am thinking, in particular, of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) which targets 16 cross-border projects. Today 3 of these projects are at an extremely advanced stage, the two hydroelectric projects in East and West Africa (Ruzizi III and the Sambagalou dam respectively) and also the Gas Pipeline project between Nigeria and Algeria. This is a very positive development and represents an important milestone in reaching NEPAD’s goals. This is, in fact, NEPAD’s very raison d’être: to orientate and render projects viable and define the rules which bring visibility to the investors. NEPAD is the ‘one-stop-shop’ of development.

I would like to remind us all that NEPAD is the first manifestation of the collective will of African countries to take their destiny into their own hands and to bring on development on the continent. Here is an initiative with incredible potential, the more reason to continue to drive and nurture this organisation and to ensure that we no longer allow ideas from without to be imposed upon us.

This is what I wish, therefore, for our continent for 2017 : increasingly ambitious goals for our common future, a future whose script belongs to us and one we will write by our values of unity and probity.

The electrification of Africa through renewable energy sources: bridging the gap.

The provision of clean electricity is crucial to Africa’s continued economic growth and prosperity. Currently, though, there is a gap between the necessary electric utility infrastructure and the scale of our ambitions as a continent. greenwish.jpg As a continent we will need to spend at least 6%of our GDP in energy over the next 10 years if we want to sustain our economic growth. How do we bridge the gap ahead of us?

Nepad has the mandate to drive and accelerate the execution of pivotal energy projects for the continent. The African Power Vision (APV), aligned with the Africa 2063 Agenda, is a long-term plan to increase access to affordable energy using a diversity of resources. APV aims to achieve an 80% residential electrification rate by 2040 and 90% for industry and business. The ‘how’ relies on a combination of off-grid solutions and a focus on cleaner sources in line with global standards. This plan depends on the critical role of technical skills development and our ability to provide a continental framework. Regional integration will, indeed, help us scale up energy delivery efficiently. Nepad also contributes to the implementation of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative and to the Sustainable Energy for ALL (SE4ALL) launched in 2011. We build bridges between national project owners and developers/financers, working towards bankability and financial close.

The key to unlocking Africa’s potential lies in identifying opportunities that can utilise national and regional energy resources in a way that is beneficial to the continent. With the abundance of solar and wind resources, Africa could become a trailblazer for renewable energy. Sub-Saharan Africa alone has the potential to provide more than 170 gigawatts of additional power through 3,200 low-carbon energy projects working with a combination of biofuels production, heat-and-power and mass transportation. The solution does not always lie outside of Africa. But the ability to attract sufficient funds to secure the success of viable energy projects will be key to our leapfrog.

This is why on the 16th of December, under the aegis of ECA and Nepad, international experts, ambassadors, high officials and entrepreneurs gathered at the Dakar Financing Summit (DFS) for the launch of the “16 infrastructure projects for African integration” guidebook. Three strategic areas were considered for transboundary projects: energy, infrastructure and connectivity. The book aims to guide investors’ decisions by answering their questions about the projects regarding their economic viability, strategic impact, technical specifications, coordination, international support, risks & mitigation, expected benefits or progress reports. It also presents African governments with recommendations to help them access the funds needed for their application.

We are pleased to announce that amongst the 16 DFS projects, three projects are at an advanced stage of financial close: two hydropower projects in East and West Africa (Ruzizi III and Sambangalou Dam respectively) and the Nigeria-Algeria Gas Pipeline project. The outcome of DFS represents an important milestone in Nepad’s endeavour to power Africa.



Africa’s Renewable Energy Project Initiative

NEPAD Agency has undertaken to contribute to the implementation of Africa’s Renewable Energy Project Initiative (AREI), which aims at enabling the installation of large-scale renewable energy capacity on the African continent by 2020.

The Initiative is led by the African Union’s commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)’s Agency, the African Group of Negotiators, the African Development Bank, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

It will have a considerable impact on the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions in the continent and we have four years to make it go from an initiative to a reality. This is why we decided to provide a platform where project owners can present directly to developers and financiers who could consider funding these projects for further development or implementation.

It is really important to involve the private sector in that kind of development projects as they can play a huge role and identify opportunities that will build Africa of tomorrow.

I invite you to learn more about it here, and to have an excellent day, wherever you are in Africa or in other parts of the world !

What Africa expects from COP22

As COP22 comes to an end in Marrakech, I wrote an article in the Huffington Post regarding Africa’s expectations from the summit and how climate change can be an opportunity to rethink development models on the continent. You will find it below or directly on the Huffington Post website. I hope to read your comments and ideas about it as it is an area in which, more than ever, we need everyone’s contribution .

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In 2001, the Marrakech Accords paved the way for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which was designed to provide technological and financial support to help developing countries offset the impacts of climate change. Fifteen years later, Marrakech again sets the stage for Africa to advocate an ambitious climate plan by hosting the COP22, which is held from 7 – 18 November. The conference is expected to produce substantive decisions on implementing the milestone Paris Agreement.

Given its small responsibility in global warming, the issue of adaptation remains the continent’s number-one priority. The effects of global warming are tangible and could have devastating consequences for Africa. In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020. By 2020, some assessments project that 75-250 million people are estimated to be exposed to increased water stress. We have reached a point where postponing action could eradicate the economic advances made by a significant number of African countries. On the other hand, discussions with a focus on action could bring benefits on many levels: economic, financial, social and environmental.

Climate change is an opportunity to rethink development models, especially for Africa. This is something African leaders and economic stakeholders have keenly understood in their collective commitment to negotiations and actions to tackle global warming. Through the African Union (AU) and its various bodies, Africa has played a key part in talks on climate change, ensuring that the continent adopts a common stance in international negotiations.

Africa must continue to speak as one in any debate and action on climate change. Through the AU and the introduction of NEPAD, the development agency of the African Union, and Agenda 2063, its roadmap for structuring and sustaining the continent’s economic take-off, African leaders have adopted an environment action plan to rise to environmental challenges on the continent. This plan aims to promote sustainable use of Africa’s resources while strengthening public and political support for environmental initiatives and making environmental issues an integral part of poverty-reduction strategies. It also provides a means of pooling resources through programmes such as the “Great Green Wall”, a scheme designed to counter desertification from Senegal to Ethiopia thanks to agro-forestry projects, to prevent desertification.

In 2014, NEPAD also successfully established a climate change fund with the support of the German government to offer technical and financial assistance to AU member states, Regional Economic Communities and institutions. In most parts of Africa, livelihoods largely depend on agriculture, which is particularly vulnerable to climate-related strain.

The commitment to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 is an opportunity to make Africa more resilient to the effects of climate change. African negotiators will need to encourage developed countries to increase their financial support for adaptation before 2020 and better meet the pressing needs of vulnerable African countries.

At the same time, the proliferation of funds to tackle climate change has raised questions over African countries’ ability to gain access to finance. Funding to adapt agriculture to climate change may be one of the most important issues on the table in Marrakech. Africa needs direct access to all new funds with minimal management by intermediaries.

The COP now unfolding on African soil is a unique opportunity to highlight Africa’s needs and build on our strengths. It is a chance to act now to shape models for our future growth. We must succeed if we are to fulfil our commitment to the people of Africa, who bear the brunt of the adverse consequences of climate change affecting our world today.