As the Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD, I would like to wish you a very happy new year. Across the African continent, my prayers and my thoughts are with you. This year presents many challenges to Africa, and promises to be quite busy with numerous presidential elections. In Burkina Faso and Nigeria, people are now experimenting political change through the ballot. The presidential and legislative elections in these countries have caused tremendous enthusiasm. They represent hope for the African people who are conscious of their rights, but also a serious warning for those who would think of violating them.
However, this must not make us forget the situation in other countries, such as in Burundi, which is facing a serious crisis that will not be without consequences on a number of levels. To all those who are suffering, I extend my heartfelt wishes for peace. I hope that year 2016 will see the end of the crisis in Bujumbura and the advent of a new era. In other countries, the future relies on the many presidential elections that the continent will host this year: in Benin, Niger, Ghana, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Gabon, Zambia, Uganda, Djibouti and the Comoros. Many elections and various issues, however that should not hide a very important pan African reality: the challenges in Africa are extremely various and highly complicated (human, social, economic challenges, etc …) and the African miracle will not happen by itself. Economic growth is bound to slow and there are numerous turbulences ahead. Here are a few:
– China, which accounts for 30% of global growth, is in the process of rebalancing its economy. This is not without consequences for the continent: the country is a major consumer of raw materials from vulnerable African countries (Sierra Leone, Zambia …). It is also feared that Chinese financial flows to Africa might decrease. How Africa will manage this downturn is now one of the main questions our continent is facing.
– The end of the commodity super cycle is also likely to weigh on growth. The drop in oil prices and other raw materials dries up a major source of revenue and puts a strain on the budgets of many states.
– The sustainability of African debt is also in question: in 10 years time, the continent has raised $ 36 billion. But according to Standard and Poor’s, debt repayment services (which already constitute a major component of the budgets of African states) could increase significantly, mainly because of monetary tightening initiated by the FED and because of the low price of commodities. This will lead states to make tough choices, from the amputation of certain infrastructure investments to the postponement of social services. I make the wish that the necessary budgetary rigor will not impact expenses which are vital for the future of African countries: for example, infrastructure investments are profitable and help diversify the economy. Also, the education sector should not suffer from this: African younger generations need to be trained to ensure the continent’s future. I invite current and future leaders to manage their budgets responsibly.
African governments will therefore have to steel themselves to diversify their financial resources and to reclaim industrial development policies. I will address this subject here in another article this month. Also, throughout the month of January, I will discuss other issues related to the challenges that will face the continent such as the agricultural challenge, the fight against terrorism or the importance of debt sustainability.
For now, I would like to address future leaders: the future of our continent and its people is in your hands. Beyond your accession to power, despite the challenges and temptations, my wish for 2016 and for the years to come is that you always keep in mind that not only your people but Africa and the wider world are counting on you.