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.

Next 10 years critical for Africa’s transformation

Following the recent World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, I have had the great honour to give an interview to the New Times journalists, Eugene Kwibuka and Anitha Kirezi.

This gave me the opportunity to emphasize that it’s time for African countries to have clear national and regional development plans and fast-track their implementation. The next 10 years are extremely critical for Africa: if we don’t achieve our transformation objectives we will fall back again.

This is why NEPAD acts every day all around the continent for Africa development : in infrastructures, for example, we have 16 projects on which we are working closely with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, and Regional Economic Communities. NEPAD’s role is to facilitate the acceleration of the implementation of these projects.

I also introduced the ‘MoveAfrica‘ initiative which aims at being the go-to place for policy advice on trade around Africa.

You will find out more about this interview here.

Liberian President Sirleaf assumes ECOWAS Chairmanship

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has assumed the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), promising to consolidate peace and security, and calling on member states to work even harder to defeat terrorism.

President Sirleaf takes over from Senegalese President Macky Sall whose hard work and ongoing commitment towards security in the region deserves a mention. President Sall has indeed achieved a great deal during this year !

I would like to wish good luck to President Sirleaf as she is going to cope with several missions whose achievement is crucial for our continent’s future : financial stability, regional integration and last but by no means least: defeat terrorism.

Indeed, ECOWAS member states will have to work even harder to beat terrorism, strengthen intelligence capacity and enhance coordination with the African Union, the United Nations and other partner institutions. Today, there is one main objective : Boko Haram must be totally defeated.

You will find more information here.

The CBN goes one step further in Lusaka

On the occasion of the AfDB 2016 Annual meetings in Lusaka, Zambia, the NEPAD co-organized the Second Continental Business Network (CBN) meetings with the African Union and the African Development Bank (AfDB) as well as a support from the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Barclays Bank. I strongly believe this initiative has the power to durably change the way Africa works.

This ambitious network serves as an exclusive infrastructure investment advisory platform engaging African policy makers and leaders in the private sector on a range of strategic issues related to infrastructure development. It is focused on the critical role that the private and public sectors need to play in de-risking infrastructure development projects identified under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

At the close of the meeting,some key recommendations and outcomes included many instrumental proposals to ensure the recruitment of competent infrastructure experts, development of local capital markets, standardizing and predictability of regulatory frameworks, de-risking priority projects through bilateral engagements with Heads of States and Government, improving incentives for institutional investments and increased transparency of funding plans and the need for reliable data.

It will be our pleasure to present the outcome of the gathering at the upcoming African Union Heads of State Summit in July in Kigali, Rwanda!

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NEPAD launches the MoveAfrica initiative, to bring down soft hurdles to continental trade

Today I feel honored to announce the launch of the MoveAfrica Initiative that aims to support the transformation of Africa’s trade by addressing soft issues related to cross-border transport and logistics challenges on the continent.

Indeed, we cannot hope for the industrialization of our continent without functional transport infrastructure. This requires not only a quantitative improvement of our infrastructure, but also a radical simplification and harmonization of regulatory conditions and procedures of business on the continent. For instance, it is staggering that an African businessman cannot move without a visa across the continent. This is why we are targeting in particular the laws governing cross-border transport, the regulations for crossing the border (eg. customs clearance, quarantine), and the systems and organizational resources for the operation and maintenance of “hard” infrastructure.

Current estimates indicate that the volume of trade in sub-Saharan Africa will more than triple, from 102.6 million tonnes in 2009 to 384 million tonnes by 2030, if trade corridors are completed. Thus it is essential to drive down costs and to increase efficiency for logistics companies and manufacturers in varied industries operating in Africa !

To achieve that, the MoveAfrica Initiative will kick-off key activities such as a consolidated stakeholder annual report to rank and track the continent’s ability to move goods and services, an annual stakeholder roundtable briefing, and a consultative group of business thought leaders on improving transport and logistics in Africa. The Initiative will be conducted through the process of planning, implementation and evaluation, based on intensive dialogue among a variety of key partners from public and private sectors at the highest level.

The MoveAfrica Initiative is part of the Continental Business Network (CBN). The CBN acts as an exclusive high-level private sector forum on Infrastructure Investment. It provides thought leadership on a range of strategic issues and is powered by high- level business people as well as public institution leaders.

To learn more about the program, please follow us on the Twitter accounts of NEPAD and World Economic Forum (#MoveAfrica #IndustrializeAfrica).

The mission of NEPAD? To be a driving force for Africa

Today, I want to explain what is NEPAD and what are the missions we execute every day. When I was appointed Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD in 2009, I set out to transform what was then a secretariat into a planning and coordination agency capable of leading projects on the ground. Indeed, I was convinced that what Africa needed was a driving force, an authority responsible for identifying projects and ensuring they were viable, for providing visibility for investors, for coordinating and serving as a catalyst for various initiatives while partnering with the private sector. Established under the aegis of the African Union and its 54 Member States, NEPAD serves this exact purpose, and want to be a catalyst for African integration.

This long-term vision for Africa is underpinned by six main pillars of development, that are key to meeting the continent’s development challenges.

First, there is agriculture, food, and nutrition security: in this field, NEPAD pursues a proactive approach to agricultural policy and works with over 40 nations across Africa through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, which promotes sustainable changes in agriculture practices.

The second pillar concerns climate change and natural resource management, for which NEPAD helps countries to coordinate and promote regional and national programs designed to curb these threats.

The third pillar is about regional integration and infrastructure. Integration isn’t an end in itself: I firmly believe that it’s a prerequisite for the development of our continent. Indeed, how can we connect our countries to the power grid and lay asphalt on our roads without coordinating each country’s efforts?

The fourth pillar concerns human development: it is what makes economic growth possible. NEPAD plays an active part in efforts to eradicate poverty on the continent by developing synergy in areas vital to human development, including education, science, technology and healthcare.

Besides, moving forward with development and regional integration in Africa requires an environment conducive to good governance at both the micro- and macroeconomic levels: this is what the fifth pillar is about.

In addition to the five theme areas presented above, NEPAD focuses its efforts on several fundamental, cross-cutting issues: private-sector involvement, gender & development, capacity development and information and communication technologies (ICTs).

As such, NEPAD is active in every area of development, taking
 a long-term approach to developing key infrastructure, defining framework agricultural policies and bolstering capacity-building at a national level, while also pursuing short-term initiatives to combat crises requiring emergency measures, such as piracy and the Ebola epidemic. We have to continually anticipate future development challenges in Africa to stay ahead of the curve.

From coast to coast, we are beginning to break ground on the first major projects led by NEPAD. I would like to single out five of these initiatives that will be completed in a matter of years: the Abidjan-Lagos corridor; the Dakar-Bamako rail link; two hydroelectric dams, Sambangalou in Guinea and Ruzizi III in Rwanda; and the road from Serenje to Nakonde in Zambia.

These projects are only the first chapter in a story that we shall write together. For more information about the challenges that lie before us and how NEPAD intends to meet them, please feel free to visit our website. I am convinced that together we will realise our dream of an African continent whose countries are open both to each other and to the world.

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The NEPAD collaborates with Thomson Reuters to accelerate pace of innovation

Yesterday was announced a strategic partnership between Thomson Reuters and the NEPAD to spearhead the development and monitoring of innovative output across the region.

This collaboration comes on the heels of the African Union’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024 initiative, a continental strategy that aims to accelerate Africa’s transition to an innovation-led and knowledge-based economy by boosting production in the science, technology, and innovation sectors.

You will find more information about this partnership here.