Q&A: The African Union’s first ever Development Agency

Question: Please take us through the journey that the led to the creation of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD.

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki: The African Union Assembly of July 2018 approved the establishment of AUDA-NEPAD as the technical executive agency and development anchor of the continent with its distinct legal identity and defined by its own statute, to deliver on the development priorities articulated by the African Union. Its establishment is part of the overall institutional reforms of the African Union. 

At the 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government in Nouakchott, Mauritania, a decision was officially adopted to transform the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency into the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD).

The vision of AUDA-NEPAD is to ‘Harness knowledge to deliver the Africa we want.’ The mission of the organisation is to provide a platform for African countries in order to ensure the effective and integrated planning, coordination and implementation of programmes and projects aimed economic integration and development, and embracing of AUDA-NEPAD’s principles and values.

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The growth of foreign direct investment in Africa also depends on our progress with regional integration

The latest report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on world investment confirms the renewed attractiveness of Africa in 2018. While foreign direct investment (FDI) fell by 13% worldwide last year, foreign direct investment to the African continent jumped by 11%. In a gloomy global economic context, troubled by the threat of an escalation of the US-China trade war, Africa is escaping the protectionist storm by continuing to attract a growing share of investments. 

It would be easy to miss the forest for the trees. It should be remembered, however, that Africa continues to capture a tiny share of FDI in the world, only 3.5%, or $45.9 billion. In comparison, India alone received nearly $42.3 billion in FDI in 2018. In 2018, FDI in Africa remained below the level of 2014-2015, following the fall in commodity prices. Natural resources also continue to be the main vector of investment on our continent – allowing the Republic of Congo, for instance, to move up to third place in the African ranking thanks to investments in oil exploration and production – with a few exceptions in some more diversified economies. 

Several factors may contribute to an increase in FDI in 2019: the hypothesis of stable commodity prices; increased US investments in the African continent to compete with China (including the creation of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (USDFC) which should be able to mobilize 60 billion mainly for the African continent); and the ratification of the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area, that is boosting the continent’s attractiveness as a large economic area in the process of creating a big continental market.

While most regional groups are for the most part weakened by internal tensions – even the European Union can no longer act as a model with Brexit and the rise of populism – only Africa is strengthening its integration within the framework of a common economic and political project. On May 30, the Continental Free Trade Area officially came into force, laying the groundwork for a single market of 1.2 billion people with an estimated GDP of $2.5 trillion. At the same time, the business climate on the continent continues to improve, facilitating investment and supporting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. In the Doing Business 2019 ranking, Africa shines by the number of reforms carried out, even in countries that are subjects to conflicts.

Nevertheless, while it is true that African States must continue to improve their attractiveness to foreign investors, one of the priorities must remain the mobilisation of our domestic resources. It is not FDI that will bring structural transformation of our economies. The average tax-to-GDP ratio on the African continent remains low compared to the average ratio of OECD countries and other regions of the world. This loss of income is more than harmful to development policies, while the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that our continent could earn $99 billion a year by adopting better tax policies. 

Our challenge to emerge in a globalized world is not without obstacles: our continent is leading an unprecedented range of reforms, but it is only by combining regional integration, improving the business climate and diversifying our economies that we will make Africa a global economic power.

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Africa Day: Towards durable solutions to forced displacement in Africa

The commemoration of Africa day allows us as Africans to celebrate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. Indeed this date marks a clear point in the history of our continent, a point at which our founding leaders signalled to the world that Africans were ready to work in solidarity with one another. This is key to our future.

One of the most prominent leaders behind the founding of the OAU, Kwame Nkrumah, is quoted as saying, “The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart”. This still applies now under the Africa Union, where the focus is on addressing not just political but also development and economic challenges, as well as creating current and future opportunities for Africa’s young population.

This year, the AU has decided to strengthen its action towards refugees and displaced persons in order to develop durable solutions for them, focusing on autonomy and resilience. The AU theme for 2019 is “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa’’.

Figures show that sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly half of the 11.8 million new people displaced worldwide by conflict in 2017 alone, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). The most affected country is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 2.2 million new displacements in 2017, out of a total of 4.5 million displaced people. Then come South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic.

From the Lake Chad Basin to Somalia, conflicts are most often a primary cause, as are drought and natural disasters. It is too often forgotten that these natural phenomena represent a substantial part (2.6 million in 2017) of the influx of new displaced people on the continent.

The complex issue is of primary concern to the countries that signed the Kampala Convention on the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons in 2009, ten years ago. Africa has committed itself to providing responses, since displaced persons are in principle under the responsibility of their country’s authorities. In practice, the UNHCR is also concerned about rescuing them, but faces funding difficulties.

Long-term solutions can be summed up in a few words: conflict prevention, poverty alleviation and anticipation of natural disasters, which are always easier said than done in broad concrete action plans. Nevertheless, good practices were discussed in New York, for instance what has been done in Niger, the first African country to adopt a national law on the protection and assistance of displaced persons in 2018.

It is a good thing that the celebration of Africa Day allows us to continue to reflect on the best way for Africa and its partners to assume their responsibilities. And so as the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, we would like to convey the best wishes to all Africans across all corners of the world. Together we will win this fight and achieve ‘The Africa We Want.’

To succeed, pan-Africanism must switch from ideal to pragmatism

Former Prime Minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, is the Executive Secretary of NEPAD, the African Union’s Development Agency. He tells Marie Hourtoule from The Parliament Magazine that there is an inextricable link between the quality and robustness of Africa’s institutions and its prosperity. This interview was first published in The Parliament Magazine March 2019 issue.

Marie Hourtoule: NEPAD is set to become the AU’s Development Agency. What changes will this involve?

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki: The pan-African idea is not a new one. It was supported by the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), at the forefront of whom was Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. The original version of pan-Africanism had a single aim: the decolonisation of the continent. The emancipation of the last Portuguese colonies in 1975, the accession of Namibia to international sovereignty in March 1990 and the abolition of the Apartheid Regime in June 1991 signalled the triumph of the pan-African idea as an ideology of liberation.

Yet in a sense, this achievement deprived the OAU of its raison d’être; it then had to redirect its attention elsewhere and overcome internal disagreements. At the turn of the millennium, the idea of an “African Renaissance” emerged, under the impetus of personalities such as South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo, Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade. The transformation of the OAU into the African Union (AU), launched at the 2002 Durban Summit, laid the foundations for “pragmatic pan-Africanism”.

During the same period, NEPAD was set up to achieve economic, alongside Africa’s political, independence, by adopting an innovative approach and reconciling public sector planning and private sector investment. Today, 17 years later, the transformation of NEPAD into the African Union’s Development Agency, a technical organisation with its own articles of association and its own legal identity, marks a significant strengthening of this pragmatic ambition. Prompted by a special recommendation in the report by President Paul Kagamé, this change will take effect in 2019 at the next AU summit. We look forward to this transformation, as it will enable us to implement more effectively our development programmes for our continent.

MH: Do you think the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme can succeed?

IAM: Development in Africa will not be possible until its agriculture has undergone significant change. Don’t forget that agriculture provides 60 percent of Africa’s jobs and 25 percent of its GDP.The Comprehensive Africa

Agriculture Development Programme is an important part of NEPAD and one of its pillars. NEPAD provides AU member states with support for its implementation, through close collaboration with the AU Commission and the various Regional Economic Communities. This programme aims to achieve at least a 10 percent increase in public investment in agriculture and at least a 6 percent increase in farming productivity. We are still some way off this goal, as over half the member states have not achieved these targets.

NEPAD recently launched the African partnership platform for the environment in Nairobi, with the aim of producing a road-map for the development of sustainable agriculture. We need to work together, to mobilise our resources, develop agricultural technology and increase productivity, without losing sight of food security. Inclusivity must be our watchword.

MH: In your latest book, you write that there are not enough countries with institutions able to confront the challenges facing Africa. Can you expand on this?

IAM: Our continent is faced with enormous challenges, starting with population growth and climate change. The African workforce is set to rise to 880 million people by 2050. This figure alone gives some insight into what we are facing. As the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mélès Zenawi – one of the most remarkable personalities I have met – used to say, “analyse your problems in your own terms”. This lack of an appropriate analytical approach has been the basic reason for the failure of development policies attempted in various African countries. It is the failure to take ownership. The same applies to our institutions. It is not enough to replicate foreign institutions; they have to be adapted to the conditions in Africa, to our resources, both human and material. The outcome is not inevitable. Botswana and the Central African Republic, two states similar in many ways, were in similar positions forty years ago. However, both have followed very different paths. The institutions play a decisive role. It will take Africa about ten years to establish sound institutions that will provide a basis for its future progress.

It is one of the tragedies of our continent is that our best minds eschew politics and the public realm. It is not my place to point the finger at particular countries or situations. I ask for a clear-sighted examination and consideration of how we can make up for the shortcomings of our institutions. The World Bank’s latest assessment of public policy and institutions in Africa showed a drop in the quality of policies and institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. This was particularly marked in those countries exporting raw materials and in fragile states. By contrast, the countries that have sound institutions are those demonstrating the greatest economic resilience. This supports my belief that there is an inextricable link between the quality and robustness of the institutions and prosperity.

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. 

Full article here

PROMOTING AFRICAN REGIONALISM THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF TRANSPORT

Every year, Africa is slowly but surely moving towards greater political and economic integration. A number of projects are underway, such as the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and the Single African Air Transport Market. It must be stated that today the potential for intra-African trade remains under-exploited, accounting for only 12% of Africa’s total trade. And one of the first causes of the weakness of its intercontinental trade remains higher transport costs than those in other regions.

In a recent research note entitled “Regionalism in Africa: Soft and Hard Transport Costs”, the French Development Agency (AFD) rightly illustrates the existence of a a causal link between the level of transport costs and the weaknesses of regionalism in Africa. In terms of tariffs, researchers believe that while African countries have effectively lowered tariffs on the products of their trading partners, the average level remains higher than in the rest of the world. But many other obstacles contribute to these trade costs, such as excessive regulation and delays at the borders and in ports that are harmful to businesses.

This note focuses mainly on the analysis of trade facilitation measures (soft) and logistic performance indices (hard), two distinct dimensions of transport costs. In the Doing Business report of the World Bank, the point of view of companies is presented via their perception of the regulation and the institutional capacities, for example, that constitute the soft indices. Conversely, the Logistic Performance Index (LPI) is based on six aspects that are much more quantitative and concrete (hard), such as the ability to track transport or the frequency with which shipments arrive on time at their correct destination. Combining these different data from the World Bank, the conclusion is the same with regard to both aspects: Africa is at the bottom of the pack, even when compared to other emerging regions.

It is therefore urgent to act on opening up African countries to one another by means of a large number of measures. Our continent has everything to gain from goods “circulating better in a more integrated space” and “value chains” that can “be set up at the African level before joining international circuits”. The importance of the transport sector and logistics performance is therefore critical for enabling Africa to increase the size of its markets and to achieve economies of scale.

At the same time, regional integration needs to take shape at the institutional and regulatory level, in order to decongest our borders and ports by harmonising our customs policies. If it succeeds in closing this gap, our continent will be able to generate a surplus of integration and therefore of economic growth, the gains of which will benefit our populations and improve their living conditions. We the African countries only have to take together the path of regional integration by breaking down the barriers that hinder our commercial relations.

My speech on behalf of the AUC Chairperson to mark the beginning of African Dialogue Series 2018, New York

Ladies, and gentlemen

It is a privilege to address you today on behalf of His Excellency Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

This is indeed an opportune time to take stock and chart the way forward to enhancing strategic partnerships in a context where multilateralism is being attacked, and questions are being raised on our collective capacity to achieve the shared goals of peace, prosperity, sustainable development and human rights for all.

How can the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, and our strategic partners, as part of the global partnerships context for development, contribute to fast-tracking the implementation of Agendas 2030 and 2063?

The African Union and the United Nations are currently working closely together on reducing risks and vulnerability due not only to political conflicts, and preventing crises caused for instance by violent extremism, economic shocks, intolerance, environmental risks and conflicts, social tensions, droughts and famines. One of the problems is the tension between the need for a long term strategic vision and the reality of short term mandating visions and budget cycles.

Within a context where multilateral frameworks seem to be under attack, this partnership led by the United Nations and the African Union creates a space for institutional innovations that can help build a more Peace and Development for a better world to live in.

The Joint UN-AU Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, co- signed by the UN Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission in April 2017, lay the basis for further improvements in the cooperation and coordination between the UN and the AU.

There is room for additional synergies between the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the AU’s Agenda 2063, and the “Silencing the Guns” flagship project of Agenda 2063.

These agendas and initiatives provide a set of shared principles and objectives that can be used to promote information sharing and coordination, so that through burden sharing and division of work, on the basis of comparative advantage and predictable joint engagement, the UN and AU are both able to improve efficiencies and overall effectiveness.

The implementation of the AU’s financial and organizational reforms, that will strengthen its financial independence and organizational effectiveness, will be an important element in further enhancing the UN-AU strategic partnership. Greater predictability is a key element for this partnership, especially when it comes to joint programming, which involves human and financial resources.

In a globalized world with increased uncertainty, what lessons can the AU-UN partnership offer regarding the need to work collaboratively to solve global problems?

Implementing this AU-UN strategic partnership will be dependent on the following critical conditions:

1. There needs to be enhancements and clarity of the UN-AU- RECs, and Regional mechanisms cooperation. The principle of subsidiarity, as it relates to the UN-AU- RECs and Regional Mechanisms, and in the context of the emerging global peace and security architecture, needs to be defined and structured.

2. National / Local Ownership. It is important there is full endorsement and alignment of all international efforts with the principle of national and local ownership. However, this principle does not negate the fact that the AU, UN and sub-regional, bodies must take into account that not all national and local leaders are committed to sustainable peace. Some are pre-occupied with staying in power, regardless of the negative impact on their countries, people or the economy. Others need help to manage corruption and nepotism, or support to combat terrorism, or assistance to resist state-capture by transnational criminal organizations.

3. The UN and the AU should support transformative processes that not only empower national and local ownership, but also enhance social cohesion and promote the inclusion of all parts of a society, by enabling equity and social harmony. This will require the development of leadership values and skills, both within the UN and AU to support such processes, without becoming prescriptive or otherwise undermining national ownership, as well as the development of a future generation of leaders that put their communities, societies and nations above their own personal interests.

4. There is now growing recognition that the type and pace of institution-building and democratization matters: linear assumptions that more development leads to greater stability, or that good governance defeats insurgencies have been debunked. The standard models of the previous era have been based on sequenced approaches to stability, peace and development. Whilst in most situations the AU and UN are facing today (for instance in the case of the Sahel, or AMISOM in Somalia) there is need to support governance, security sector reform and development initiatives amidst ongoing conflicts.

5. The combination of challenges facing the UN, AU, sub regional organizations, states and communities in Africa require a comprehensive approach. A whole systems approach is needed to align the various dimensions (peace-security, Governance and development) behind a shared political and strategic vision.

6. We must recognize that there is a significant body of knowledge on peacekeeping, but both the UN and AU are increasingly tasked to undertake stabilization operations. There should be an emphasis on learning lessons and identifying best practices in the past, but now this approach is questioned, because of the pace of change, which makes such lessons and practices obsolete, and because it is now recognized that each situation requires its own context-specific response that should be arrived at together with the society in transition.

7. Gradually, we should aim at rationalization and creating greater Coherence on Global partnership commitments regarding Africa’s development: for example, FOCAC, TICAD, EU, USA partnerships, thinking coherently. The foundation for NEPAD in 2000 was motivated by fostering three levels of ownership (local, national, international) that helped feed the design for Agenda 2063. Its implementation illustrates how critical it is to build global coherence by taking advantage of synergetic approaches, and financial, human and institutional resources to reach the stage planning development and sustaining peace for Africa.

In conclusion, excellences, ladies and gentlemen:

1. we should not forget to integrate the role of an emerging private sector in job creation and peace stabilization;  and last but not the least,

2.  integrate gender and youth perspectives into early warning, prevention, mediation, peace operations, and peace building.

These aspects are often poorly connected with the peace, security, governance and even development aspects of planning, and much more needs to be done to integrate these economic and social dimensions into an integrated and coordinated systems approach to achieve the sustainable development goals and realize the AFRICA we want.

I thank you

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.

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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