Migratory challenge at the heart of Africa’s rural areas

Contrary to what many still believe, it is now Africa that dominates migration flows to Europe and not the Middle East. The 2016 agreement ratified between the European Union and Turkey contributed to reduce the number of migrants from the Middle East. Africa is the first land of global emigration.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Sub-Saharans represented 79% of the migrants that went to Italy between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2017. Meanwhile, Spain has also become an important migration route as the number of migrants that crossed through the “Western Mediterranean route” has already doubled compared to 2016.

If some of our fellow citizens leave the continent to flee wars and political violence, we can not underestimate the weight of economic migrations. The causes are multiple and well-known: mass unemployment, especially among young people, political instability and bad governance, demographic pressure in urban areas, abandonment of rural areas by government, social injustice and a form of fantasy about the promises of Europe.

Among all the possible solutions, numerous econometric studies have demonstrated the relevance of agricultural development in the fight against poverty. In a continent that accounts for 65% of the world’s available arable land, for a population that is still more than 50% rural, this is the best way to provide people with training and employment, a decent income, and hence stabilization.

In a joint study, FAO and CIRAD estimate that nearly 380 million young people, including 220 million in rural areas, will enter the African labor market by 2030. If we do not offer professional opportunities to young people in rural areas, they will have no choice but to migrate to large African cities in precarious conditions or even to Europe. Agriculture and rural development are the pillars on which our response to the migration challenge in Africa must be based.

While 80% of farms in Africa are less than two hectares, linkages between smallholder farmers and agribusiness firms need to be strengthened to create a harmonious ecosystem. By setting up integrated value chains to capture a greater share of added value and by ensuring regional self-sufficiency for certain commodities, these agropoles will provide jobs for people, especially women and young people.

Within the framework of the perspectives defined by the African Union, the NEPAD Agency ensures the establishment of agropoles and infrastructure corridors at the heart of Agenda 2063 for the agricultural transformation of the continent. A better connection to regional markets is key to creating a sufficiently large pool of consumers to justify the necessary investments.

The demographic danger takes a second, more unexpected form: the agricultural labor force is ageing in Sub-Saharan Africa. On average, farmers are sixty years old in many countries while youth is massively affected by unemployment. This is an opportunity to carry out a generational transmission so that experienced farmers can transfer expertise to young people. I often say that a farmer’s life is no different from that of a business owner. Agriculture is particularly transformed by the digital era, which young people will better exploit than the current generation.

It is useless to look towards the Mediterranean when we want to talk about the migratory issue. It’s already too late. It is by acting directly on the causes of migration that the inhuman situations found in Libya and elsewhere will cease. Let’s start by offering a professional future to our fellow citizens and by creating the conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth.

In memory of Pr. Calestous Juma

I would like to formally pay my respect one last time to my dear friend Calestous Juma who passed away last week. Of course, my first thoughts go to his family and friends. But I think they won’t be the only ones deeply affected by his passing.

For a whole generation, and maybe for future generations of leaders, he was an exceptional teacher and thinker as well as one of the shining lights of Africa in the intellectual sphere. Famous for his good spirits and readiness to help out others, he was as charming and charismatic as he was demanding. His vision was one of openness and sound debate.

But although he was one of the most optimistic people I had the chance to meet, he did not take a rose tinted view of Africa’s place in the world, be it from an economic or political standpoint. For instance, he was noticeably quick to pinpoint shortcomings in the conventional narrative about Africa, either overpessimistic or overoptimistic.

His greatest works such as In Land We Trust or Innovation and its Enemies revolved around fundamentals topics for a truly African-led revolution, both political and economical (biological diversity, technological innovation, property rights…). He charted the path to our true emancipation, keeping in mind the importance of taking a pan-African perspective if we want to overcome our challenges.

I remember a few particularly illuminating texts he wrote and that also helped me better define my views of the continent’s development and its place in the world.

For instance this one about industrialization and what he called “the misplaced promise of Africa’s mobile revolution”, helped to deconstruct a myth often played up in the media about the quasi-magical power of new technologies to industrialize Africa. Far from being idealistic, and though he was such a pioneering scholar, he was a very down to earth and dedicated proponent of pragmatic solutions.

Most of his business plan for Africa rested on the physical infrastructure and agricultural revolution he never ceased to promote. He placed them at the center of the continent’s long-term economic transformation but was particularly keen on innovation to achieve this, as he demonstrates in a fascinating book, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa.

For generations of students lucky enough to benefit from his teaching, he will remain one of the most humble and yet noticeable voices from our continent. His voice will be sorely missed but the ones he inspired will keep him alive and well among us. Let’s hope he inspired many vocations. This would be the best tribute we could pay to his memory.

African countries are building a giant free-trade area

They have long traded with the world, now they want to trade with each other.

“AFRICA must unite,” wrote Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, in 1963, lamenting that African countries sold raw materials to their former colonisers rather than trading among themselves. His pan-African dream never became reality. Even today, African countries still trade twice as much with Europe as they do with each other (see chart). But that spirit of unity now animates a push for a Continental Free-Trade Area (CFTA), involving all 55 countries in the region. Negotiations began in 2015, aimed at forming the CFTA by the end of this year. In contrast to the WTO, African trade talks are making progress.

At a meeting on December 1st and 2nd in Niamey, the capital of Niger, African trade ministers agreed on final tweaks to the text. Heads of state will probably sign it in March, once an accompanying protocol on goods has been concluded (agreement on services has already been reached). But trade barriers will not tumble overnight. The CFTA will come into force only when 15 countries have ratified it. Even then, the deal only sets a framework, within which some details of tariff reduction have still to be worked out. Separate negotiations, covering competition, investment and intellectual-property rights, are yet to begin.

Nonetheless, technocrats are keen to talk up the agreement. Chiedu Osakwe, Nigeria’s chief negotiator and chairman of the negotiating forum, sees it as a “massive historical opportunity” to escape the colonial legacy. Some 82% of African countries’ exports go to other continents; they consist mostly of commodities. By contrast, over half of intra-African trade is in manufactured products. Supporters of the deal argue that it will create larger, more competitive markets, helping to ignite Africa’s stalled industrialisation.

African leaders also have an eye on relations with the rest of the world. No longer able to count on unilateral trade concessions from rich countries, they are instead being forced into reciprocal deals, which involve more give-and-take. A strong CFTA would give Africa extra weight in talks with Europe and America, argues George Boateng of the African Centre for Economic Transformation, a pan-African think-tank.

Yet political pressure to rush negotiations may weaken the final text. The CFTA aims to eliminate tariffs on 90% of products over five to ten years, which is less ambitious than it sounds. Much intra-African trade is already between members of smaller free-trade areas, such as the Southern African Development Community. The rest is concentrated in a small range of goods. Peter Draper of Tutwa Consulting, a South African firm, notes that, by retaining tariffs on just 5% of products, African countries could in effect exclude most of their current imports from liberalisation.

A study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that, with the CFTA, intra-African trade would be 52% higher in 2022 than it was in 2010. Since that assumes the removal of all tariffs, the actual effect will almost certainly be more modest. Research also shows that the largest gains come not from reducing tariffs, but from cutting non-tariff barriers and transport times. That will come as no surprise to drivers in the long lines of lorries queuing at a typical African border post. The World Bank estimates that it takes three-and-a-half weeks for a container of car parts to pass Congolese customs.

African countries have a mixed record on easing trade. A new one-stop border post has slashed the time taken to move cargo from Tanzania to Uganda by 90%. But even as tariffs have come down, east African countries are also erecting new non-tariff barriers, such as divergent standards for goods. Informal traders, most of them women, report harassment and extortion at borders. Meanwhile multiple deadlines have been missed on the road to the Tripartite Free-Trade Area, a separate scheme to link three regional blocs.

Free trade runs counter to political currents in many countries, including South Africa and Nigeria, where governments fear losing control over industrial policy. They also worry about losing tariff revenues, because they find other taxes hard to collect. Patience over the CFTA may be a virtue, if it gives countries more time to adjust. The technocrats are optimistic. “You create the foundation, then you can build the house,” says Prudence Sebahizi, the African Union’s chief technical adviser on the CFTA. “Even if it takes many years.”

Resetting the Africa-Europe Relationship

Africa faces a broad range of development challenges, and overcoming them will require huge sums of foreign aid and investment. But as Africa develops, its people will also need partners who recognize that there are mutual benefits to engaging with the continent’s mobile and highly-educated base of human capital.

JOHANNESBURG – In October, the European Union announced a plan to invest €40 billion ($47.6 billion) in Africa, a “Marshall Plan” for the continent that would boost economic growth, create jobs, and, ultimately, slow the migration of young Africans to Europe. “Words won’t convince migrants to stay at home,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said. “We must give them a chance to have a decent life.”Tajani is right. Unfortunately, his approach is not.

For almost 60 years, well-meaning foreign governments, many of them European, have poured huge sums of money into Africa, with little to show for it. Lasting solutions to Africa’s development challenges require funding, to be sure, but they also demand a significant recalibration in relations with foreign partners. And Africa’s relationship with Europe may require the biggest overhaul of all.

The problem goes much deeper than money; one might even say it’s philosophical. Africa and Europe have a very old relationship, marked by complexity and pain. Europe imposed its system of governance, values, and more recently, approaches to trade, long claiming that Africans need to be trained, to modernize, and to emphasize “capacity building.” This patronizing partnership has run its course, and it is crucial that we change the dynamic.

Meetings like the fifth African Union-European Union summit, which wrapped up last week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, are a good start. The meeting, which focused on “investing in youth,” put a spotlight on the complex links between the sides. One conclusion was clear: the EU’s current answer to addressing migration from Africa is outdated. If Europe’s strategy to solve its migration challenges relies on money alone, it will fail.

We are a long way from the lopsided dynamic that defined African-European relations during the colonial era. Today, Europe may need Africa more than Africa needs Europe, especially if one considers human capital.

Over the next 15 years, some 440 million Africans will enter the job market, compared to 72 million in Europe. Africa’s job seekers will need work, and Europe will have it. An aging population is already putting a squeeze on Europe’s growth, and vacancies are forecast to multiply amid a shrinking labor pool. There is even a strong possibility that, in the long run, it will be African young people who pay for the care of European pensioners. These demographic differences underscore the potential benefits of rethinking economic and political relations.

Without migration, the redistributive policies on which European welfare states depend will be unable to withstand the current rate of aging. Not only will finding the staff to care for an aging population become more difficult; obtaining sufficient revenue to fund social security systems will also become harder as the dependency ratio rises. Migration policies that emphasize mobility are essential to support European industries, household consumption and, ultimately, the financing of social benefits.

Because strategic competitors like China and India have already identified the human-capital potential of Africa’s youth, Europe must move quickly to attract and retain – rather than repel – African professionals. Of the 375,000 students from the continent who study abroad each year, many will establish businesses and find their own place in a globalized economy upon graduation. There is already growing competition in the US, Canada, China, the Middle East, and Africa itself to attract these highly educated and mobile students.

Just as sixteenth-century Europe needed African gold, twenty-first-century Europe cannot do without the African diaspora. Which other world region can offer similar market potential for European industries faced with declining demand and or subdued growth in both their domestic and traditional export markets?

That is why it is more important than ever that Europe not engage in an administrative bean-counting exercise, in which other economies will always appear stronger. Instead, the EU should commit to mutually beneficial employment schemes that maximize the strengths of people and cultures on both continents, notably through skills transfer.

Europe’s recognition of its need for Africa is a necessary paradigm shift, leading, one hopes, to reasoned collaboration. In an increasingly uncertain world, Africa and Europe can set the foundations for a smarter partnership by changing the basis of their cooperation.

Failure to do so will be costly. But most of that cost will be borne by Europe. With alternative partners already courting their talent, it is not Africa that will be hurt the most by the missed opportunity.

 

 

Scaling up Climate Smart Agriculture for inclusive development

Johannesburg, November 28, 2017 – Every day that passes, we are learning and getting more convinced on the inevitability of ensuring our agricultural systems are climate smart. Climate-smart agriculture is the reform to ensure the way agriculture is practiced remains compatible with man-made climate changes, securing short-and-long-term resilience in productive capacity of the agricultural systems.

This was the sentiment at the 4th Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture, convened in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 28 November.

In his opening remarks, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency, highlighted the importance of climate smart agriculture towards inclusive development. “The Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture is for the first time being held in Africa. This is an extraordinary moment for Africa and the world at large, [as it is about what] goes to the core of the efforts to attain the inclusive development goals set in both Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the global SDGs,” said Dr Mayaki.

At the centre of the efforts for development in this context, are the following three issues: Firstly, important under the theme of the conference is the challenge presented to science and policies, in terms of how to bring the science-policy nexus to directly bear on accelerating and expanding the evolution, adaptation and up-take of farming practices that are climate smart.

Secondly, is the issue of science and what this means with regard to innovations and advancing the locally adapted climate smart farming and food systems practices.

Thirdly, the context of fostering implementation calls for the conversation to be among all practitioners, policy makers, business interests as well as academia and civil society.

Dr Phil Mjwara, Director General of the Department of Science and Technology in South Africa, reiterated the importance of upscaling climate smart agriculture, adding that food security, adaptation and mitigation are referred to as the “triple win” of climate-smart agriculture.

During the opening session of the conference, Martin Bwalya, NEPAD Agency’s Head of Programme Development pointed out that, “Climate Smart Agriculture can only be a success if it is a success globally, since food systems and climate variability do not have boundaries.”

Also speaking at the conference, Prof Diran Makinde, Senior Advisor in the NEPAD Industrialisation, Science, Technology and Innovation Hub, remarked that NEPAD Agency is leading on research that includes precision agriculture for increased impact and results.

In his closing statement, Dr Mayaki remarked that, “Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture, specifically, and the advancement of climate smart farming systems, is a key part of the African Union and NEPAD’s commitment to sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development.”

Practicing Climate Smart Agriculture will directly impact on:

  •   Sustainablyincreasingagriculturalproductivityandincomesin order to meet national food security and development goals
  •   Buildingresilienceandthecapacityofagriculturalandfood systems to adapt to climate change;
  •   Ensuringthatagriculturecontributestomitigateemissionsof greenhouse gases or increase carbon sequestration.

    Close to 300 participants attended the conference, with representa- tion from all five continents (Africa, North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe). Convening partners of the 4th Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture include the NEPAD Agency, South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, GIZ, CIRAD, IRD, CTA, Wageningen University, CGIAR, CCAFS, AGRA, CCARDESA, Forum for Agricultural Research on Africa, and the African Capacity Building Foundation.

Women and Youth economic empowerment at core of NEPAD Agency discussions in Abidjan

Abidjan, November 27, 2017 – The NEPAD Agency in partnership with the Spanish Agency for International Development and Cooperation today hosted a high-level session, on “Technical, Vocational and Education Training (TVET) and Skills for African Youth” session.

The event which took place on the margin of the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire brought together representatives of African Union and European Union Member States and various stakeholders involved in women and youth empowerment and skills development- development partners, private sector, civil society, business leaders and other stakeholders including women and youth entrepreneurs and networks.

In his opening remarks, the NEPAD Agency CEO, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki highlighted that skills development remains a crucial factor in unlocking the potential of African women and youth.

“We need to move away from business as usual because we are already aware of our shortfalls therefore we need to focus on strategies that show impact. In order to do this, it is crucial to adopt a multi-sectoral approach when implementing projects and our job creation initiatives must have a multi-sectoral outlook. The NEPAD Spanish Fund has managed to do this well, by establishing the needs on the ground, creating projects that cater to those needs and capacitating women to empower themselves,” said Dr Mayaki.

Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies but its’ women and youth still remain the greatest untapped assets. African leaders are recognising the urgency of investing in these women and youth in order to accelerate inclusive economic growth and achieve the objectives set out in the

AU’s Agenda 2063 and the Global Vision 2030, which both call for people centred strategies that identify education, skills development and economic empowerment as key drivers of development.

Recent studies show that one fourth of the world’s population will be African by 2050 while almost half of the world’s youth will come from Africa by 2100. By 2035, the continent will have a larger working age population than India or China and a labour force, 3 times larger than Europe’s by 2050. Meanwhile, women represent more than half of Africa’s population and 60% of Africans are under the age of 25. The continent therefore needs to manage its demographic dividend in order to ensure growth and poverty reduction.

Representing the Government of Germany, Mr Guenter Nooke, German Chancellor’s Special Representative for Africa, elaborated on the German support towards youth empowerment.

“Germany has decided to support the African Union and the NEPAD Agency in its endeavours for training and employment of young people. Today we pledged 28 Million Euros for the Skills Initiative for Africa project and 3 Euros for the implementation of the African Policy Framework of Migration which has a link to labour migration,” he said.

The event showcased targeted interventions that contribute to women and youth economic empowerment resulting in employment opportunities and sustained livelihoods.

Lessons were also drawn from the NEPAD Spanish Fund for African Women’s Empowerment flagship project which to date has empowered over 1.2 million women.

“ Our current Master Plan continues to prioritise gender equality as one of the fundamental goals for development, the NEPAD Spain Fund for the empowerment of African women with the aim of improving African women’s life and specially to speed up the improvement of their economic situation,” said Christina Diaz Fernandez-Gil, Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Spain.

NEPAD WOMEN EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME

The NEPAD Spanish Fund (NSF) for African Women’s focuses on Women’s economic empowerment. To date, the Fund has implemented 77 projects in 35 countries in Sub Sahara Africa. More than one million women have benefited directly from the Fund in areas such as business and vocational skills training, enabling environment for women entrepreneur, access to finance and job creation. In many cases, these interventions brought structural changes in the promotion of women and youth entrepreneurship business in Sub Sahara Africa.

SKILLS AND EMPLOYMENT FOR YOUTH PROGRAMME

The NEPAD Agency has developed a Skills and Employment for Youth Programme (SEFY). As a central pillar, the SEFY uses existing African Union sector policy development frameworks (e.g. Infrastructure-PIDA; Agriculture- CAADP) to stimulate public and private sector investments to generate economic opportunities and critical quantity and quality of jobs along national priority productive sectors. Programmatic actions aim to provide support to strengthen evidence based national development policy and strategy development; enhancing youth skills development including harmonisation of Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET) frameworks; as well as strengthening policy and institutional support for supportive entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Africa: Rural Employment, Innovative Financing and Agricultural Development to Accelerate Sustainable Growth in Africa

Following our session “High level on Technical, Vocational and Education Training and Skills for African Youth” I am sharing with you a very relevant article from Fati N’zi Hassane, the  Head of Program, Skills and Employment for Youth, NEPAD.

Africa is often described as the world’s youngest continent: 220 million Africans are between 15 and 25 and are expected to be around 350 million by 2030. Such youth is certainly a great opportunity but it is also a challenge, especially considering that certain factors, if not managed properly, like youth employment, have the potential to become strong threats for our societies. We therefore urgently need to find sustainable prospects for these new generations in order to take advantage of their fantastic energy and prevent them from becoming a challenge.

Like anywhere else in the world – the UN estimates that 66% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050 – young Africans living in rural areas are virtually connected to the outside world. They dream of leaving their villages and aspire to modernity. However, many of these young people from the rural exodus quickly find themselves caught up in a very precarious situation, which is often due to poorly controlled urban development.

Just like urban policies are key for the continent’s growth, employment and rural development are crucial elements, even though their importance tends to be overlooked. Let us recall that a considerable number of young people will be entering the labour market in the coming years: nothing less than 440 million young Africans aged between15 to 35 by 2030, two thirds of whom will be coming from rural areas.

Full article here

Climate smart agriculture in the context of COP 23

While COP 23 is currently being held in Bonn, I thought it was interesting to present an update on one of our programs to support the fight against global warming, and aims to increase resilience to this phenomenon, which unfortunately our countries are facing as the first victims although they are in no way responsible for this situation.

Launched in 2014, this program, named Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is derived from the policies defined and put in place by the African Union, including the ComprehensiveProgram for Agricultural Development in Africa (CAADP). Our organization, NEPAD, is in charge of coordinating and implementing this platform, which should directly benefit the States involved.

Climate Smart Agriculture* is an agriculture that increases productivity, resilience and adaptation over the long term, while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This program is therefore aimed at global food security and improving nutrition in the face of climate change. The CSA program plans to strengthen the capacities of agricultural stakeholders at all levels, especially small farmers and concerned institutions. It has an ambitious goal: to reach the target of 25 million African farmers practicing climate smart agriculture by 2025.

To this end, Africa and NEPAD are leading a country-driven and regionally-integrated initiative that provides the tools and platform for hosting partnerships that deliver tangible results. The structure has borne fruit: today we have developed several successful alliances with international NGOs like CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam and World Vision, but also with four technical partners including FAO, and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), for example.

Every year for the past three years, NEPAD has been bringing together experts, representatives of our Alliance’s countries and regions, and our partners to discuss and adress the important role of agriculture in combating climate change. Today, through this program, NEPAD is seen as a source of information, innovation and knowledge production on climate change in Africa. Our platform also helps to find international funding and partnerships for states that wish to develop effective resilience policies to climate change, based in particular on agriculture. We are therefore enrolling in a concrete action that is bearing fruit.

It remains to create the tools to measure the results of this new approach in the field. The transition of agriculture sectors (including crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture) to more sustainable and climate-smart production systems is indeed starting and without doubt on the ground. We therefore first need to assess the current and future impacts of climate change in each African state, identify current and future adaptation strategies, and create a favorable environment for farmers. We must continue our efforts and launch new projects as we have done already with success in states like Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.

We are facing a long struggle, but the time has not come to give up. It’s about our future and the future of our planet.

* From the English term smart agriculture, this is an agro-ecological agriculture that not only adapts to climate change but also emits low greenhouse gas.

Faced with the galloping demographics, what public policies?

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.

The Africa we want cannot happen without African women

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.”