I am following up with my latest thoughts on the demographic transition that our continent is experiencing. We have posed the problem in its major trends in our last post, but it is also appropriate, I believe, to see how we can deal with this phenomenon.
One of the levers on which it is possible to act to better control the growth of the population is fertility. It has been said that this involves the education of girls and young women and raising awareness about the challenges of an uncontrolled population increase. Unfortunately, some leaders still view population’s growth as a mark of power, and rely on the so-called demographic dividend, but too often forget that this dividend is only possible if everything else follows, from infrastructure to health specialists and schoolteachers.
Let me explain: without effective education and health infrastructures, without decent jobs creation by the millions, younger generations will not be well trained, will not enter the labor market and will not be healthy. They will therefore be able to participate only at the margin in the national economic wealth creation, if these young people still live long enough to become active workers and find a job. Another growing phenomenon, due in large part to the lack of good education and health infrastructures, is the ever-growing illegal migration phenomenon. Indeed, it seems obvious that the tens of thousands of young people who cross the Sahara then the Mediterranean Sea at the risk of their lives and also take the risk of leaving everything, are part of this issue because they feel they have nothing to lose in this adventure. This message of despair must challenge us, because if the population continues to grow at this rate, emigrants will be more and more numerous.
Governments must therefore look at ways and means to lower the fertility rate. We have already ruled out coercion to achieve this goal. But there are other strategies, other public policies that can be tried or implemented. This has been seen in some countries, such as South Africa, Kenya and Malawi. In Ethiopia, for example, the government has set up a tight network of 42,000 community health workers. These have reduced the cost of health expenditures by 39% between 2005 and 2015, which is already a good achievement in itself, but they have also helped raise awareness among millions of women about birth control. This experience could be expanded to other countries, or even to the entire continent.
Another possible lever is family planning. In 2011, nine governments in West Africa, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and several large private foundations signed an agreement, the “Ouagadougou Partnership”, intended to promote family planning. There are religious, political and social obstacles, but family planning remains one of the proven methods of reducing fertility, provided access to reliable contraceptive methods is available. In this area also public policies can be put in place. And if states do not want to engage directly, they can support and encourage free work on the part of some specialized NGOs.
According to the available studies, in 2013 worldwide, 63% of women aged 15-49 years who are in a couple used a contraceptive method, and 57% a modern method (pill, IUD or sterilization). But for sub-Saharan Africa, only an average of 20-25% of women had access to contraception, with some countries falling below 10%, such as Mali and Eritrea.
As such, North Africa is an exception on the continent. Algeria, Egypt, Morocco or Tunisia have experienced faster population transitions with a current fertility rate of between two to three children per woman. A figure that can be linked to the high proportion of contraceptive use: between 60% and 68%. South of the Sahara, only South Africa is getting near this global average with 60%.
This demonstrates that public policies can effectively address the challenge of reducing fertility. We just have to do it.
As we talk more and more about the second liberation of Africa and economic liberation, one cannot avoid thinking also of Africans who represent more than half of the continent’s population: Women. Should we also consider this question in terms of a new liberation, an emancipation? Would not it be more constructive to look at the situation of the 410 million African women today, and then to see how to help them more?
Recently, I was struck by a figure – according to UNICEF, if all girls in Africa went to primary school, maternal mortality would be reduced by 70 percent. That would be 50,000 lives saved each year. What would be the implications of this with regards curbing of sexually transmitted diseases, or improving children’s daily diet? The prospect is mind blowing.
Access to education for girls, which varies greatly from country to country, remains a priority. We need to identify weak links and bottlenecks in order to ensure access to education for girls and young women. More than a bet on the future, it is an economic and political necessity. That is particularly true when we take into account that about 28 million girls and teenagers, who are of school age, will probably never go to school for even a single day in their lives…
The issue is also economic because women represent half of our continent’s human resources. In agriculture, 40 percent of agricultural work is carried out by women, but yet they produce 80 percent of food in households. It should also be pointed out that unemployment affects them more than men: 10.6 percent of women are unemployed, compared with 8.2 percent men, according to the World Bank.
In Africa too, disparities are significant, for instance in Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi, where the number of women in the fields exceeds 50 percent. In Ethiopia and Niger, on the other hand, they account for only 29 percent and 24 percent respectively of the overall workforce. According to FAO, “Enabling women to participate more effectively in agricultural activities means reducing the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. It also improves the well-being of children and families, which contributes to training human capital for future generations and long-term economic growth.”
On the other hand, thanks to quotas such as those in Burkina Faso and Rwanda, the representation of women in parliament has increased significantly. In sub-Saharan Africa, women’s representation was 22.3 percent in 2015, compared to only 8 per cent in 1995. At the global level, the figure is 22.1 percent. This is a big step forward for Africa.
However, much remains to be done. Equality is not yet a reality despite the progress made. Violence against women, genital mutilation and forced marriages remain a reality. As the UN stresses, “Despite the adoption of innumerable international conventions and protocols that reaffirm gender equality, discrimination and prejudice hold back the emancipation of African women. In virtually every sector of activity, women on the continent are still struggling to gain recognition of their right to live in dignity.” This at a time when we are talking about the necessity to reduce births in Africa. How do we do it without involving women?
Initiatives exist to highlight and promote the role of women in this new phase of our history. The Women Advancing Africa Forum, organised by Mrs Graça Machel in Tanzania this summer, aims to celebrate the central role of women in shaping African development and their capacity to lead social and economic change. The aim is to ensure that women on the one hand are emancipated and participate directly, but also to ensure they are recognised, in the development of Africa, in making positive strides towards “The Africa We Want.”
The demographic development of Africa poses major infrastructure and equipment problems for our States. This is particularly true for the Education sector. Since nature loathes the void, where states do not or can not accept hundreds of thousands, even millions of students of the superior, non-state institutions are set up.
This is true of the growing number of Christian universities or Koranic schools that are more concerned with primary education. For our States, education of the youth must of course be a priority, but the means, despite a generally strong economic growth, are often lacking. Yet, education is one of the primary human rights. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to ensure “access to quality education for all, equality of access, and promoting opportunities for lifelong learning ‘. The increase in enrollment is an undeniable success, especially for girls too often excluded from school. But this also poses a problem for higher education, which is struggling to welcome those who wish to go further in studying. They are too rare, but yet African national universities can not meet the demand. Hence the gap we were talking about earlier.
In the 1950s there were only 41 higher education institutions in Africa with 16,500 students. In 2010, 5.2 million students are enrolled in 668 universities in sub-Saharan Africa, more than a doubling since 2000. Faced with this tidal wave, it is understandable that states are struggling to keep afloat University institutions worthy of the name, capable of accommodating the students in comfortable conditions, and to provide them with a diverse and quality teaching, adapted also and especially to the national future needs of human resources.
Because Education is part of a whole and normally participates in the deployment of a long-term strategy of developing countries by setting up training axes. For example, West Africa today lacks skilled labor for the mining industry or mining engineers, while the region is experiencing an unprecedented mining boom. International mining companies are therefore obliged to call on expatriates for a number of fields of competence, and sometimes at best, they train their West African colleagues to replace them. But the ideal would be to have training institutes, mining schools, for example at the regional level (ECOWAS), which would train young people in these trades which enjoys more and more jobs opportunities.
The reality nowadays is that private institutions, often linked to religious obediences, respond in the place of the State to the needs of higher education. On the other side of the spectrum, this situation of academic indigence also pushes some of the best elements to go abroad, often in the West but also and more and more in some Arab countries, to study. This is part of the brain drain and skill deficit. The example of doctors is probably the most illustrative. This is also true of university professors, who are often discouraged by the lack of resources, recognition, public investment and adequate infrastructure to accommodate ever more students. African governments have therefore allowed the development of private universities, which are predominantly Christian.
In Ghana, for example, there were only two private universities in 1999, now 28. Nigeria has authorized 61 private institutions since 1999, of which 31 are Christian. This situation raises, of course, the question of State control over higher education both in terms of the content of teaching and the integration of education into a traditional republican culture independent of religious denominations. Not to mention the possibility that education is being held hostage to a political struggle that has nothing to do with the country where the private university is located, as was the case recently in East Africa.
With regard to education, the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 provides that at least 70% of all African high school students have access to higher education, which represents an eight-fold increase in the current rate registration.
To achieve these objectives, our states will therefore have to invest more in education, in partnership with the private sector, increase standardization of programs and controls of private institutions and define clear training strategies in line with their developmental needs.
Africa recently experienced an unusually long spell of steady growth. Sadly, it is a well-known fact that our economies failed to ensure the equitable sharing of the benefits of one of the highest growth rate in the world. So we are today in a specific context of a general decline in commodity prices and a consecutive slowdown in growth in Africa. This downward trend in commodity prices may be a constraint, but I would also like to see it as an opportunity because both public and private stakeholders will have to be more innovative in order to unlock new sources of endogenous growth, wealth and inclusive employment with greater spill over effects for the region’s economies.
Addressing the challenge of employment and wealth in the rural world is crucial for Africa’s development. The situation is highly paradoxical: Africa imports the equivalent of USD 50 billion in food each year, even though more than half of the world’s uncultivated arable land is on the continent and 60% of the population still lives in the rural world! The development of this agricultural potential, at a high productivity and competitiveness level, is essential if Africa is to feed 2.5 billion people by 2050.
Today, the challenge is to identify new tools for sustainable economic growth, this time based on principles of inclusion and equity, while maintaining a steady growth rate. Meeting these conditions will enable African economies to cope with a population that is still booming and with the ever-growing number of young people looking for education, training and jobs. These challenges are set against a backdrop of climate change and resource depletion, calling for the use of production techniques that are tailored to environmental challenges.
The principles of inclusion and equity imply adopting spatial and territorial approaches and policies that ensure rural areas benefit from the same developments and initiatives as urban areas; that responsible investments are made in rural areas; and that women and young people have access to the factors of production, especially training, land, water, finance, renewable energy, markets and income that reflects the fruits of their labour.
There are promising signs that private sector money is finding its way towards more inclusive development models. Conservation finance is one of the most exciting corners of agriculture development in emerging countries today. Conservation finance strives to reach three major and complementary goals to finance the agro-ecologic transition by calculating three different kinds of returns: economic, environmental and social.
These new investment projects are based on limited land acquisition and partnerships with farmers networks that are empowered with new techniques. The new actors take care of their production and of its transformation and ensure an access to the market, whether locally or internationally. Private investment in agroforestry businesses is a big driver for the intensification of farmer’s activities while restoring degraded lands, protecting forests and raising farmers’ incomes.
The African public sector should invest more money in incubators and accelerators to channel funding and technical support at the beginning of the cycle of these projects. This investment will pay off because the incubators could create a network of agroforestry start-ups with the infrastructure, knowledge and access to the funding needed to realize their concept. The consequences in terms of employment and resource developent could be tremedous. In this regard, the support of international governments and donors will also be essential. The progressive transition from solidarity systems to mixed market systems will help to stimulate investment and the development of structural activities capable of laying the foundations for this much-needed change.
Renewing public policies on the basis of local development would also help to tackle the root causes by providing appropriate solutions to ensure people settle and remain in their areas of origin. The empowerment of local authorities should be based on their specific characteristics, their ecosystems, their cultural heritage and their know-how combined with technological innovation and learning, especially for young people and women.
The governance of our natural resources and the financial resources they generate are the cornerstone of our structural change; they require appropriate solutions at the continental, regional, national and local levels, the most critical ones being the regional and local levels. Change will be sustainable when it happens at these two levels.
I thank the "Rencontres Économiques d'Aix-en-Provence" for inviting me to this new edition. Exceptional guests and exciting debate. The video of my speech during the round table: From a world of inequalities to a world of solidarity - coordinated by Pierre Jacquet, member of the Cercle des économistes, and moderated by Béatrice Mathieu, Deputy editor of L'Express, with Jacques Attali, President of Positive Planet, Pierre-André Chalendar, President and CEO of Saint-Gobain, Esther Duflo, Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Geoffrey Lamb, Senior Advisor of the Bill & Merinda Gates Foundation, Is available by clicking here.
More often than not, particularly in Africa, we are used to opposing the formal and informal sectors. Shouldn’t we adopt for once a holistic approach of our economies and try to integrate more and more the informal sectors of our economies by the means of smart and fair policies?
Behind this somewhat negative word, the informal sector – understood as all activities that are beyond the control of the state, whether legal, social or fiscal – there are artisans, mechanics, tailors, merchants, taxi drivers, masons. In short, people who scrap a living. But in this logic of day to day survival, these men and women also walk down a precarious path in the medium to long term. What can you do if you get sick when you only have a small job to earn money to pay for the day’s food? What happens when the informal worker, one he is too old, no longer has the strength to work? It is easy to understand that above all, one must escape from the logic of survival in which too many of our fellow citizens are stuck, often against their will.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the informal sector accounts for an average of 55% of cumulative GDP in sub-Saharan Africa. In some of our countries, the workers who produce this wealth sometimes count for the majority of the active population. Statistics are lacking, but in a report on the informal sector published last May, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicated that informal employment accounts for between 30 and 90 per cent of non-agricultural employment in sub-Saharan Africa. Let us recall that there is no clear frontier between the formal and informal sectors: legitimate companies may indeed use informal contractors for certain matters, for example on a construction site.Even the IMF, a former vocal critic of the informal sector, in the report we have just mentioned, shows that times have changed and that the informal sector can be a growth opportunity for our economies.
“While international experience indicates that the share of the informal economy declines as the level of development increases, most economies in sub-Saharan Africa are likely to have large informal sectors for many years to come, presenting both opportunities and challenges for policymakers”, the report says. This is all the more true as the number of jobseekers increases exponentially and as a “fight” against the informal sector will deprive our states of an important safety valve, especially for youth. Remember that to absorb new workers, Africa must create 122 million jobs in the next ten years. The IMF adds: “The challenge for policymakers, therefore, is to create an economic environment in which the formal sector can thrive while creating opportunities for those working in the informal sector to maintain or improve their living standards”.
Bringing these individual or family businesses into common law is not an easy task, but there are ways and means to make it happen, and above all a strong argument in favor of this move: entering the system makes it possible to fight precariousness, especially if sound policies of health insurance and retirement pensions are accompanying this regularisation. Under no circumstances should policies appear to be a tax burden on micro and very small informal enterprises. Policies must promote access to banking services and improve productivity of these small businesses, so that they create more jobs, pay social contributions for employees, and, only in a second phase, provide tax revenues to the state.
 Regional Economic Outlook, IMF, May 2017.
That was a great honour for me to participate in the Oxford Africa Conference along with Graça Machel and Donald Kaberuka. Here is the video : http://bit.ly/2rOsWRh
African Heads of State and Government committed to the goals contained in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, which acknowledges that agriculture and food security are key determinants of nutrition that require coordinated and comprehensive responses from other sectors, including health, education, labour, social protection, and coordinated collaboration with multiple stakeholders.
While it is a well-known fact that Africa hosts half the available arable lands in the world, as a continent Africa still disproportionately suffers from hunger and hunger related diseases such as stunting or malnutrition.
On the margins of the 13th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Partnership Platform (CAADP PP) in Kampala, Uganda, the NEPAD Agency publicised the Africa Nutrition Map. The Africa Nutrition Map is a tool that indicates hot points on the continent with regards to hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity. The map also indicates the growing prevalence of less covered “rich country diseases” on the continent such as obesity or diabetes.
“The NEPAD Nutrition Map provides a snapshot of Africa’s nutrition context as at the end of 2016. Too many people still suffer from hunger in Africa. Hunger is a by-product of poverty, but the Nutrition Map also provides points to the opportunity for African leaders to take advantage of the continent’s huge agricultural potential in ensuring the provision of nutritious food,” said Kefilwe Moalosi, NEPAD Agency’s Nutrition Programme Officer.
Africa still imports USD$50bn worth of food each year, even though agriculture and its value chains could provide more employment to its youth and food security to its citizens. CAADP was adopted by the continent’s leaders as the framework within which to redress these and other challenges, by putting the necessary reforms in place to trigger the green revolution that Africa needs.
CAADP, short for the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development, is an African-wide agenda designed to support the transformation of the continent’s agriculture for sustained food security and socio-economic growth.
Africa can feed itself with its own resources. Read this great article from my friend Calestous Juma: http://bit.ly/