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.

More on Welt ohne hunger

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

Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s centenary and his legacy

As this year marks the centenary of Nelson Mandela, I wish to share with you the ways in which his legacy has influenced our team at NEPAD and the projects that we are conducting.

Nelson Mandela is remembered as an advocate for peace, equality, and freedom. As an individual, he never failed to prove his selflessness and as a leader, he demonstrated his determination to bring change. Very few people have had as much of an impact on history as he did. Most importantly, he has inspired many leaders and institutions. NEPAD is no exception.

The NEPAD Agency was established in 2010, as the technical body of the African Union.  We focus on the strategic development and implementation of the continent’s priority programmes and projects in areas such as education, health, development, and inclusiveness in order to reach Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As Nelson Mandela once said Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. At NEPAD, we firmly believe in this affirmation. Encouraging education is a way of providing the African youth with opportunities to live a healthy life but also to participate in the achievement of a prosperous continent.

In this regard, we have launched a number of initiatives aiming to have an impact your training. Through our Skills Initiative for Africa program, for instance, we are working towards the improvement of education quality, close cooperation with the private sector and the use of innovation six African countries.

With such initiatives, we hope to be getting closer to Mandela’s dream of “a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”.

The legacy of Mandela is also characterized by a strong will to constitute a better and stronger Africa. It was undoubtedly passed down to NEPAD and manifests into our dedication to making breakthroughs in the frontier of development.

Against the backdrop of a changing world and globalization, we have set up programmes that aim at fostering better living conditions – through education or employability – but also free trade, freedom of movement, and infrastructure building. The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is a clear example of our will to promote regional economic integration and tackle low levels of intra-regional economic exchange and participation in the global trade.

I am convinced that through our work we are working together towards the transformation of Africa. We will realize our dream of an African continent whose countries are open both to each other and to the world.

NEPAD to become the African Union Development Agency

At the recent 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government in Nouakchott, Mauritania, African Heads of State and Government received several reports, including the status of the implementation of the AU Institutional Reforms presented by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. President Kagame is the current chair of the African Union and the champion for the AU Institutional Reforms process.

During the Summit in Nouakchott, a decision was officially taken on the transformation of the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency into the African Union Development Agency.

The Assembly approved the establishment of African Union Development Agency as the technical body of the African Union with its own legal identity, defined by its own statute.  The statute will be developed and presented for adoption at the next AU Summit in January 2019.

The Assembly commended the leadership of Senegalese President, H.E Macky Sall, current Chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee, for reinforcing the credibility of NEPAD that has been acknowledged in the international community, including the G20 and the G7.

The current reforms at the AU are an affirmation by member states of their commitment to the NEPAD Agency as the Union’s own instrument established to champion catalytic support to countries and regional bodies in advancing the implementation of the continent’s development vision – as articulated in the seven aspirations and 20 goals of Agenda 2063.

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency, stated that, “A core aspect of the current reforms is to streamline and improve effectiveness and efficiency in delivery in the implementation of AU decisions, policies and programmes across all AU organs and institutions. In this sense, as the NEPAD Agency is the technical implementation agency of the AU, one specific recommendation in the Kagame report is to transform it into the AU Development Agency. We are enthusiastic about this transformation, which will make it possible to deploy our programmes even more effectively in the service of our continent’s development.”

Intra-continental migration, a windfall for Africa

Could it be that we have missed a fundamental phenomenon structuring the African economies? By focusing the debate on extra-continental migration and its impact on relations between African countries and their partners, we have forgotten that most of the migration from Africa is intra-continental migration. According to a recent UNCTAD report, 19 million people migrate across Africa each year, compared with 17 million to other continents, and 5.5 million migrating from the rest of the world to Africa.

The results of this study go against the current of a pessimistic view of the phenomenon of migration, a vision that usually emphasises imagined problems of assimilation, loss of jobs, the struggle between immigrant populations and locals for public resources, imbalances in the health and welfare systems, cultural friction, etc. There is another picture that emerges here: intra-African migration is an engine of productivity and growth, the transfer of skills, an intensification of trade, industrialisation and investment in the countries of origin.

Countering the argument that immigration leads to competition for jobs, the study highlights the fact that some migrants are answering the call of the leading economic sectors of certain countries where the labour force is drying up. This is the case for education and engineering (Rwanda), financial services (South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda), telecommunications (South Africa, Rwanda), construction (South Africa, Ivory Coast) and mining (South Africa, Gabon), as well as for agriculture (South Africa again, Ivory Coast). These sectors display a demand for all levels of skills and demonstrate that migration largely responds to a demand from the host countries whose supply of labour sometimes struggles to adjust to growth, or to a rapid transformation of their economic structure.

As for integration through work, this is accelerated for migrants in a market that allows them to develop skills that they would not have had access to in their countries of origin. Farmers with low skills in Burkina Faso have been able to gain new ones and thus gain access to better paid jobs than would have been the case had they stayed at home. It is also thanks to this increase in skills that the macroeconomic equilibriums, far from being destabilised by the arrival of new populations, are reinforced in the host country, as well as in the countries of origin. This is an incentive and a message for some African countries that are still too cautious in their management of African migration.

In the host country, better pay results in increased consumption of local products, or of products imported from the country of origin (“the nostalgia trade”). Migrants from the DRC and Zimbabwe in the period 2000-2013 generated growth in food imports from these two countries, from 100,000 to 650,000 dollars for the DRC and from 100,000 to one million dollars for Zimbabwe. In this respect, migrants constitute an economic link between the countries of origin and the host countries, and a singularly effective engine of growth in exports from their country of origin.

The increase in their pay means they also contribute to an increase in local consumption and to the tax revenues (taxes and duties) of the national economy. The idea that the arrival of new populations would destabilise the social equilibrium is also invalidated by this observation. And, thanks to the money sent back from the diasporas to their countries of origin, a transfer of capital between countries is taking place, and there is also a contribution to the social systems of the countries of origin.

All the benefits of this phenomenon of intra-African migration no longer need proving. The challenge to be faced is now in the hands of the African countries, some of which have already started to adapt their legislation to support this movement, even if others have not yet understood the benefits they could derive from it. But migrations, which are a component of our continent, will see their positive effects increased thanks to the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and a pan-African passport. The harmonisation of standards, the disappearance of customs barriers, the free movement of people and capital are all mechanisms that can boost migration in a unified market across the whole continent.

Africa Day

“Let us all unite and celebrate together

The victories won for our liberation

Let us dedicate ourselves to rise together

To defend our liberty and unity…”

That is how the African Union anthem starts.

Today, the 25th of May, all of us Africans on the continent and in the diaspora join together to celebrate Africa Day. We therefore take this opportunity to convey the best wishes from the NEPAD Agency to all Africans across all corners of the world.

Wherever we may be, we should be proud of our identity as Africans, treasure our traits and traditions and exhibit the spirit of Ubuntu, with what Hausas call Mutunci.

On this day, let us pause to embrace our economic opportunities and to reflect on what it means to achieve the aspirations of Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want! Thus we shall be able to answer the question as to whether we are on the right path towards the dawn of a new day for Africa and her people.

May we continue to wisely learn from lessons of the past, build on current progress and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available, and facilitate free movement of Africans on their Continent.

I wish everyone a happy and peaceful Africa Day.

Mo Ibrahim Forum 2018 – Roundtable on Public Services in Africa

I was delighted to participate to the Mo Ibrahim Forum 2018’s roundtable on Public Services in Africa. Here is the link.

The 2018 Ibrahim Forum focused this year on public services in 21st century Africa: their key relation to good governance and effective leadership, new challenges and current shortcomings, the ways and means to strengthen them and make them appealing to the next generation.