International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda 7 April 2017

In making strides towards the goal of transforming our continent into “The Africa We Want” – a peaceful, strong and united Africa, reflection on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda reminds us that we cannot take our peace and security for granted.

Current and past events in African and around the world, as evidenced by the high number of people displaced by war, conflict or persecution, which now stands at almost 60 million, builds a strong case for prevention of conflict to come to the fore in all that we do. Prevention has become an essential aspect of foreign policy due to the nature of today’s conflicts, their growing complexity and the fact that conflicts are more intra-state than inter-state. Moreover, the presence of powerful non-state actors and violent extremisms all make it necessary to strengthen early warning and preventive diplomacy mechanisms.

On the African continent, efforts for peace are on the increase, as demonstrated by an ever growing number of peaceful transitions of power, with recent examples being Nigeria, Ghana, Cape Verde, to mention but a few.  At the beginning of the 1990s, there were approximately thirty ongoing conflicts, but now they have been reduced to about a dozen. In addition, we are also witnessing Africa’s integration through regional and continental efforts, under a direct manifestation of the “ownership principle” that is the cornerstone of an African prevention and development policy embedded in the African Union.

Reflecting on Rwanda today, the words of Wole Soyinka ring true:

“Given the scale of trauma caused by the genocide, Rwanda has indicated that however thin the hope of a community can be, a hero always emerges. Although no one can dare claim that it is now a perfect state, and that no more work is needed, Rwanda has risen from the ashes as a model of truth and reconciliation.”

Together with Africa’s 1.2 billion people, the NEPAD Agency commemorates the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, in order to eventually see a continent where all guns are silenced, a continent in which its people flourish in a culture of human rights, democracy, gender equality, inclusion and peace.

Ruralisation of the towns and urbanisation of the country: leveraging on the potential of the continuum

The African model of urbanisation is an idiosyncratic model of development. Africa’s urban population is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.09 between now and 2030, the highest in the world. At this rate, there will be a billion more people living in African cities by 2063.

Urbanization offers opportunities for economic growth, social and cultural development but has also come with its own challenges. But just as our cities require long-term, integrated urban planning and design, sustainable financing frameworks and the cooperation of all levels of government for an urban paradigm shift, so rural Africa requires a rethinking in terms of an extension of its potential and facilities. Town and country are part of a continuum where different economic activities take place. The success of these activities is linked to access to markets and proximity to urban centres. We need more inclusive development policies for both urban and rural inhabitants as well as a healthy flow of people and goods through linkages. This continuum must be nurtured especially because it has the potential to drive agro-industrial transformation.

Agro-industrial transformation remains the most sustainable and stable path of development for the continent. Being the sector that employs the majority of Africans and accounting for a third of Africa’s GDP, it is 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in any other sector. The impetus of a properly framed and financed agricultural economy is not to be underestimated. Smallholder farmers need financial support to stop piloting and go to scale with what works and to treat agriculture as a business. African women constitute close to 70% of the agricultural workforce and mainstreaming their participation and empowerment in Africa’s agricultural revolution is therefore critical.

Over and above agricultural production, other jobs can be created in the rural areas, from hairdressers to medical doctors, mechanics, notaries, agronomists. Many rural areas also have tourist industries that are fundamentally changing employment structures. The reinforcement of agro-industry, urban traits and facilities in the rural areas can decrease the differences between villages and cities, and this without spoiling the rural cachet if we ensure that environmental pressures are minimized.

Our attention also needs to be on the urban corridors, the areas near the city which facilitate the movement of people in and out of the city and demand an extension of facilities. Many of these areas have a multiplicity of non-farm enterprises and a considerable proportion of the economically active population.

Rural-urban linkages allow the flow of people, goods, money, technology, knowledge, information. Agricultural products flow to urban areas, and goods from urban manufacturing areas to more rural areas. If well managed, the interactions between towns and countryside are the basis for a balanced regional development which is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. It is time to rethink the town-country continuum by leveraging on solidarities, complementarities, governance, better livelihoods and environments for all.

Investing in regional solutions to national problems

Today’s international climate is, in large part, marked by the inward orientation of some of the world’ biggest economies as they raise political and economic walls.

As we seek to find African solutions to African problems, on the other hand, we need to think across national boundaries. If we are to solve our most pressing challenges relating to: food security, talent production, infrastructure and political stability, then a paradigm shift is called. It is greater regional integration that will allow us to ride the Fourth Industrial Revolution successfully and build stronger, fairer, more prosperous societies.

Food security in the challenging context of climate change is a pressing issue. We cannot plan for sustainable economic development and long-term prosperity without establishing food security for millions of people facing hunger in Africa. Can Africa get ahead of climate change impacts on food security? I believe it can. Climate change and the impact on food production is not restricted by man-imposed national borders. Countries within the same regions share both ecosystems and natural resources. It, therefore, makes sense for us to build resilience to adverse weather effects through regional collaboration. We can thus ensure that limited resources are prioritized and targeted towards the most effective solutions.

The AU recognises that regional governance institutions need to be strengthened for the purposes of more integrated responses to Africa’s development challenges. Our policy makers should be encouraged to think in terms of a continental industrialisation plan, identifying viable future industries which different African countries specialise in. This would mean that the country-level industrial plan of each African country would be integrated within the regional and continental plan. Smart regional integration will allow us to play to ours strengths by clustering countries around what they specialize. Cross-border coordination will reduce overall adaptation costs, bring economy of scale while addressing our infrastructure needs more effectively.

Here are two of the regional integration models that are making the difference.

Sub-Saharan Africa, the Eastern and Southern Africa region are struggling to find the skilled labour required for the further growth of the region. Current education and training at the tertiary level provide poor standards in subject matters not immediately relevant to the challenges that the region faces.  In this context, the World Bank’s project, Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE), adopts a regional approach in areas of science and technology higher education. ACE strengthens selected existing African higher education institutions to produce world-class training to address priority economic sectors.  The ACE II is expected to enroll more than 3,500 graduate students in their specialized areas within 5 years.

The political element to regional integration cannot be dismissed. Strengthening trust among leaders and populations and ensuring political stability across African nations are also keys to effective collaboration. We have just seen a common approach to peace and security at play through the military intervention of ECOWAS in Gambia on the 19th of January. ECOWAS demonstrated that, in crisis situations, stability will be made to prevail by regional forces.



Manifesto for 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-equilibrating cities and rural areas: a priority for stability in the region

The world is moving to the city and Africa is the world’s fastest urbanising continent. In 1950, sub-Saharan Africa had no cities with populations of more than 1 million. Today it has around 50! The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050: more than 80% of that growth will occur in cities.

What’s striking today is the fact that urbanisation is not correlated with poverty reduction. The World Bank says that African cities « cannot be characterised as economically dense, connected, and liveable. Instead, they are crowded, disconnected, and costly ». This is mainly because they have grown without installing the infrastructure that makes cities normally work. But what I would like to emphasize today is that African development is highly linked to the fact that cities and rural or semi-urbanized zones cannot be thought of separately.

Let me explain: today, African cities are centres of consumption. Lots of them are built on commercial and administrative income and are characterised by the scale of informal employment. Urbanisation is growing in favour of the capitals, which further reinforces the territorial imbalances inherited from the colonial period, where the capital city was usually the commercial hub. This was amplified after the end of colonial rule.

Even nowadays, African states keep focusing on their capitals instead of considering small and medium-sized cities. It is a very real risk as it explains why these intermediary cities have grown in size due to population growth, but without benefitting from public investment in infrastructure and services. Thus, it keeps increasing the appeal of the big city which keeps enhancing population differences, etc. A real vicious circle.

Moreover, that leads to another effect: it is amazing to think that cities in Africa have become totally disconnected from rural areas instead of existing in a logic of partnership. As public authorities are paying more attention to urban matters, “rural affairs” are left out. It is of utmost importance to restore balance between regions: this is why priority must be given to the development of African intermediary cities but also to the reinforcement of rural dynamics.

Indeed, the challenge is not about creating an opposition between rural and urban but to identify and strengthen the necessary connections most notably from an industrialization perspective. Failing this, there is a major risk of large-scale migration towards the big cities, with the dramatic consequences that we can imagine (be it economic, social, environmental or political).

Nowadays, in Nairobi (Kenya), around two-thirds of the population occupy 6% of the land. Slums bring with them filth and disease. When we think that infrastructures are such a big issue, would you pretend that re-equilibrating regions is not a priority? Neglect of entire zone is an open door to long-term instability.

The areas of influence won over the last 10 years by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram in rural zones of the Sudano-Sahelian region stand as a strong reminder of this harsh reality.


Second Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaoundé

Last week, the NEPAD Agency with the support of and in collaboration with OECD, CIRAD and other partners including FAO, GIZ and AfDB, hosted the 2nd Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaoundé, under the theme “Transforming Africa’s Rural Space through Youth Empowerment, Job Creation and Skills Development.”

It aimed at providing a platform for exchange and peer learning on experiences and insights in catalyzing and fostering job creation and skills development in rural-based agri and non-agri-systems as key components to advance rural development.

That two-day conference concluded last Friday with renewed calls to economically empower young people. Today, it is striking to see that Africa’s high economic growth rates have not translated into high levels of employment and reductions in poverty for youth and those living in rural areas.

Today, attaining Africa’s Agenda 2063 aspirations and goals to a large extent depends on the transformation of rural areas. Indeed, it has be made obvious that Africa’s fight against poverty, hunger and unemployment will be won or lost in rural areas.

You’ll find more information on that conference here and here.

To fast track regional integration, let’s involve African Presidents !

Africa is a continent of great opportunities, and a destination of choice for many investors and development actors. However, over the past few years, it has become clear (and I have written many times about it on that blog) that infrastructure is vital to the sustainable development of our continent. This is why African leaders had to step in so as to identify infrastructure projects of high developmental impact, and champion them. This proposal has since transformed into the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative which was endorsed and adopted by the African Union Assembly in January 2011 in Addis-Abeba. For the first time, African Presidents have become actively and directly involved in infrastructure development and implementation!

The PICI was born out of a proposal by President Jacob Zuma to accelerate regional infrastructure development enabled through the political championing of projects. The role of the champions is to bring visibility, unblock bottlenecks, co-ordinate resource mobilization and ensure project implementation. This initiative should ultimately unlock the economic potential of the continent and provide development opportunities for regions, countries and our people. Also, it presents the opportunity for African Heads of State and Government to be actively involved in the development and implementation of projects.

Thanks to that initiative, and through the implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the African continent continues to make progress in infrastructure development. This is why the PICI forms part of the overall PIDA as it helps implementing important projects from the PIDA Priority Action Plan by identifying and dealing with blockages, missing links and choke-points.

Under the PICI, for example, progress is being made in closing the missing link of the trans-Saharan highway project covering 4500 kilometers between Algeria and Nigeria. Since the project’s completion will make it easier to cross the borders on this route, people and goods will be transported faster and more effectively across the region. The upgrading of the highway will also boost regional integration and trade. Besides, the optic fiber component of the project progresses very well: Algeria, Chad, Niger and Nigeria will soon be connected!

Thanks to the bi-annual HSGOC progress reporting mechanism, we can measure concrete progress on the ground. This is why I can assert that the PICI is without a doubt a valuable developmental initiative and must be fully supported and promoted. For instance, even if governments in Senegal, Egypt and Nigeria changed, the program continued to perform well. This is a positive testimony to the determination to develop infrastructure and promote regional integration.

The PICI initiative puts Africa on the right track towards unlocking its potential. The NEPAD Agency, acting as the secretariat and executing agency of the PICI and working closely with the country focal points of the respective states, the African Union Commission (AUC), the RECs, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), continues to monitor the progress on the implementation of the PICI projects. I have no doubt that the NEPAD Agency, together with our partners and political champions will meet the infrastructure challenges of the continent.

Mandela day

On the occasion of the Nelson Mandela International Day, the NEPAD Agency joins the rest of the world in honouring one of Africa’s greatest statesman. As we once again join in the annual celebrations of this initiative, we ought to be reminded of his exemplary life which embodied the highest values of the African Union in its drive towards a united, peaceful and prosperous continent.

The message behind Mandela International Day is a simple one – each individual has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better. In recognition of this special Day, it is befitting for the NEPAD Agency to reflect on the ways in which we can all effect meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of ordinary people around us.

The NEPAD Agency joins the Mandela Foundation in asking people around the world to devote at least 67 minutes of their time on 18 July – Madiba’s birthday – to a community service activity.

Nelson Mandela once said: “It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.” He was a leader who acted with a steadfast belief in justice and human equality. Let us all continue, each day, to draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life-long example and his call to never cease working to build a better world for all.

Let’s encourage African think tanks !

A decade ago, African think tanks were not legion but the situation has now changed: today we notice a far greater interest in joining forces to find African solutions to African problems. This phenomenon is reinforced by the fact that some of Africa’s most brilliant analytical minds, having gained some experience in the international arena, are returning home to share their knowledge with their fellow citizens. That societal trend of Africans taking more control of their own economic, political and social destinies is extremely positive for Africa’s future.

As we all know, further improvements in governance, infrastructure and education are required if we want our continent to achieve a wholesome development. I am certain that think tanks can play a key role by serving as catalysts for ideas and proposing practical solutions for policy problems. They have a specific part to play: according to K.Y. Amoako (who is also former executive secretary of UNECA), “whereas academic centres focus on contributing to the body of knowledge, think tanks not only contribute to the body of knowledge, but also take from the body of knowledge to propose real solutions to busy policymakers ». Indeed, the outcomes from the leading African think tanks are often very original and practical as they look at societies in the round rather than from single aspects such as economics and politics. Besides, think tanks that are based in Africa and mainly run by Africans have shown a greater sense of the economic reality on the ground and also stand as a bigger chance of securing the ear of governments. This is why they cannot be overlooked.

When the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) organized the 3rd Africa Think Tank Summit in partnership with the AUC, NEPAD and UNECA on 8-9 April under the theme “Creating a Sustainable Future for African Think Tanks in Support of the SDGs and Agenda 2063”, we made it clear that we needed strong and effective think tanks. Indeed, it is really important to change process in order for governments to ably mainstream the use of local think tanks to deliver on both Agenda 2063 and the 2030 SDG Agenda. This is why, during the Summit, regional organizations such as the AUC and NEPAD together with the ACBF and UNECA engaged member states on the importance of mainstreaming the function of think tanks at each step of development policies.

Think tanks can actually be efficient in various fields: for instance, the Africa Progress Panel (APP), chaired by Kofi Annan, promotes equitable and sustainable development for Africa. It produces annual reports (most recently on Africa’s energy and climate opportunities) and seeks to target decision-making audiences in Africa and all around the globe. Also, I deeply believe in the role of the ACET (African Center for Economic Transformation), an economic policy institute supporting Africa’s long-term growth through transformation. Their mission is to address some of the policy and institutional barriers that hampers sustained economic growth on the continent. They even take it further yet by advising governments through the implementation phase including strengthening their institutional capacities, as a ‘think and do tank’.

As a consequence, I would like to reaffirm my conviction that think tanks will remain an integral component in the quest for poverty reduction and sustainable development for some time to come. Today, governments need to be able to cleverly make use of think tanks’ academic and ground expertise, as they have a big role : as the continent works towards its new destiny, African thinkers are in charge. Those will build Africa’ sustainable future.