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The released Gallup research about the optimism of countries in 2012 showed that Africans are perhaps the most optimistic about their future. By far Africa was more optimistic than Europe. While many African countries Gallup scores were in high 80s and 90s, European counterparts were in low 20s and 30s.
Business Insider reported that “Gallup research about the optimism of countries in 2012” was released July 18, 2013. “The data was compiled by asking respondents to rate their lives on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, where zero is the worst and 10 is the highest. Respondents were asked to rate their lives now, and then to rate their lives five years in the future. The difference between the two scores is used to calculate a country's optimism, or, conversely, their pessimism.”
This overflowing optimism coming from Africa is something to be highlighted and appreciated to fully comprehend the rate of change taking place in Africa. Africa is beginning to understand that its destiny lies in its hand, not in some foreign utopia. See the chart below:
In a recent Capitol Hill policy discussion on U.S.-Africa trade, an African ambassador passionately proclaimed that the best thing the United States can do for Africa is to remove the negative stereotype that if one nation has a problem then the continent as a whole is damned.
The point is hard to argue with when all we hear about is Africa’s epidemic diseases, famines and despotic leaders. Too often, Africa’s trade and investment potential for American business is overshadowed by a false notion that the continent is a tinderbox, ready to ignite at any moment.
President Barack Obama’s recent visit to South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania underscores that the time has finally come to dramatically reframe how we think about and how we engage with Africa’s 54 nations. We as Americans must lose our tunnel vision and learn to see Africa as a continent of immense opportunity.
The data speaks for itself.
For more than a decade now, the world’s fastest-growing economies have been in Africa. Countries including Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique have annual gross domestic product growth of 8 percent to 11 percent. With more than a billion people living on the continent and rapidly expanding middle-class and youth populations, opportunities abound to leverage new consumers and engage new leaders to connect with each other and global markets.
In 2012 alone, we saw the transition of power in several African nations to illustrate that peaceful changes in leadership are the norm rather than the exception. In Ethiopia, Malawi and Ghana, three African leaders died in office, and their successors transitioned in without military intervention or major protest.
Frankly, the United States can’t afford to cede Africa’s economic momentum to foreign competitors such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRIC nations. While we as a nation continue to tinker with our Africa policies, China’s trade with the continent continues to expand. Last year alone, China’s trade with Africa totaled some $200 billion; we lagged behind at $95 billion.
These numbers are particularly troubling when we consider the reservoir of good will the United States enjoys on the continent, spanning both Democratic and Republican administrations.
One of President Bill Clinton’s signature accomplishments was signing into law the African Growth and Opportunities Act, which eliminates trade tariffs for African goods exported to the United States. And no one can forget the success of President George W. Bush’s efforts to address the HIV and AIDS crisis through the President’s
Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Obama has similarly contributed to these legacies with efforts such as the Global Health Initiative, Feed the Future and the Young African Leaders Initiative. Despite being bogged down with a global recession and wars winding down in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama has focused his policy on some of Africa’s most enduring and persistent challenges that have kept Africa from reaching its full potential.
During Obama’s first term, he also launched the Doing Business in Africa program to promote U.S. trade with the continent and announced the first-ever trade mission to Zambia, doubling bilateral trade between the two nations.
The affinity Africans have for the United States, which was significantly strengthened by Obama’s 2008 election, must be leveraged to ensure America holds its seat at the table and doesn’t lose ground to economic competitors.
Africa is ready to leverage trade opportunities over tired, old aid paradigms. Africans en masse say they no longer need only aid to solve their problems. Africans confidently signal that they are ready to engage the United States on trade and investment terms that will be far more transformative than the aid-based solutions of the past.
The next major event on the horizon is the reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunities Act, set to expire in 2015. It’s our nation’s pre-eminent trade arrangement with the continent and has employed hundreds of thousands of Africans, pulled millions of people out of poverty and grown industries where none previously existed.
In sum, Africa’s 54 nations are experiencing something close to a renaissance. The challenge before us is whether America is ready to participate in this new era of engagement or whether we’ll stand on the sidelines and let other nations take the lead.
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.,District: 37th District, West Los Angeles; Culver City, is ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
New HIV infections among children have been reduced by 50 per cent or more in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations agency spearheading the global AIDS response said today.
Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia have reduced new HIV infections among children by half since 2009, while Tanzania and Zimbabwe are also making substantial progress.
This is according to the latest progress report on the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive (Global Plan), which was launched in July 2011 at the UN General Assembly High-level Meeting on AIDS.
The Plan has two main targets for 2015: a 90 per cent reduction in the number of children newly infected with HIV and a 50 per cent reduction in the number of AIDS-related maternal deaths.
It focuses on the 22 countries which account for 90 per cent of new HIV infections among children. The current report presents the progress made by the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and some of the challenges they face in meeting the agreed targets for 2015. Data from India was not available at the time the report was written
Overall, the report shows that there were 130,000 fewer new HIV infections among children across the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa – a drop of 38 per cent since 2009.
“The progress in the majority of countries is a strong signal that with focused efforts, every child can be born free from HIV,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which spearheaded the Global Plan initiative along with the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
“But progress has stalled in some countries with high numbers of new HIV infections. We need to find out why and remove the bottlenecks which are preventing scale-up,” he added.
UNAIDS noted in a news release that Ghana showed the greatest decline in the rate of new infections among children since 2009 (76 per cent), followed by South Africa (63 per cent).
However, the pace of decline in some of the Global Plan priority countries has been slow and in Angola, new HIV infections have even increased.
New infections among children in Nigeria, which has the largest number of children acquiring HIV (nearly 60,000 new HIV infections among children in 2012), remained largely unchanged since 2009. Without urgent action in Nigeria, the global target for 2015 may not be reached, the report warns.
The report also notes that more pregnant women living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral medicines to prevent HIV from being transmitted to their children and for their own health in 2012 than in 2009, with coverage levels exceeding 75 per cent in many countries.
Increased coverage has reduced HIV transmission rates from mother to child in most countries. Botswana and South Africa have reduced transmission rates to 5 per cent or below.
“We have the tools required to reach the Global Plan’s goals, and recent data show that we are moving ever closer to their realization,” said Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, US Global AIDS Coordinator.
“This month, as US Secretary of State John Kerry announced, the one millionth baby will be born HIV-free due to PEPFAR’s support. Now, we must all continue working together to see the day when no children are born with HIV, which is within our reach,” he added.
At the same time, the report also shows that only half of all breastfeeding women living with HIV or their children receive antiretroviral medicines to prevent transmission of HIV. It outlines that breastfeeding is critical to ensuring child survival and strongly emphasizes the urgent need to provide antiretroviral therapy during the breastfeeding period.
More than half of the children eligible for treatment in South Africa and Swaziland now have access. Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe have doubled the numbers of children accessing treatment from 2009 to 2012.
While the report outlines that the number of children requiring HIV treatment will reduce as new HIV infections decline, urgent steps need to be taken to improve early diagnosis of HIV in children and ensure timely access to antiretroviral treatment.
Also, the number of pregnant women living with HIV receiving antiretroviral therapy for their own health has increased since 2009, the report adds. In Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zambia, more than 75 per cent of the pregnant women eligible receive antiretroviral therapy and more than 50 per cent in Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
President Barack Obama's 26 June-3 July visit to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania is an important statement of his intent towards Africa during his final term.
His election as president of the United States in November 2008 raised expectations around the world about the emergence of a more consistently and strategically engaged US policy approach to diplomacy and international relations. Given his own mixed African and American ancestry, these expectations were especially strong among pro-African communities within the United States, just as they were in cities and villages across sub-Saharan Africa.
Early in his first administration, Obama visited Ghana in July 2009. The speech he gave in Accra had few specific pledges other than a promise to cut down on funding American consultants and administrators. Instead, President Obama’s Ghana trip was mostly about symbolism, offering an effective backdrop for a sharp critique of corruption and repression on the continent, and advocating home-grown governance and stronger institutions and remedies. Ghana was chosen to illustrate an African country that enjoys political pluralism and a growing economy.
A further trip by President Obama had been planned for Sub-Saharan Africa (Michelle Obama visited South Africa and Botswana) but domestic demands such as the US economy in meltdown, pressing foreign policy priorities such as Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea resulted in low-key engagement in comparison to his predecessor George W. Bush, and a policy marked by greater continuity with previous administrations rather than change.
There were highlights during Obama’s first term: Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State made Africa a diplomatic priority, visiting 23 African states (out of 54); the 2011 referendum, and then the independence of South Sudan; the changing fortunes of Somalia and discreet mediation efforts by key officials in Malawi, Guinea, Senegal, are all examples of what US good offices can achieve. The $3.5 billion African food security initiative of the Obama administration had impact and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), enacted under the Clinton administration, has increased US trade with Africa. It is due for renewal by 2015 but early action on this would be a positive statement of America’s desire to deepen trade partnerships with Africa.
There were also disappointments: slowness of appointments to key Africa jobs, such as no permanent assistant administrator of the US Agency for International Development for Africa until 2012 and a US Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa was not released till June 2012 - hardly the signal that Africa was an Obama administration priority.
Hopefully for Obama's second Africa trip, African expectations are more realistic. Symbolism plays a role again: Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania are important democratic US partners. There is also a need to ensure geographical spread, so West, Southern and Eastern Africa is covered. Two key countries are missing from the list because of their current political condition, Kenya and Nigeria. Avoiding Nairobi while the uncertainty of the International Criminal Court cases hang over President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto is prudent.
The decision to avoid Nigeria is questionable. Nigeria will soon host the third largest population in the world and Africa’s largest economy but President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration are facing multiple security and governance challenges that require international partnership. A good initiative during the first Obama administration was to re-open a US Consulate in northern Nigeria given the crisis there.
Sadly, spiralling security costs, and a lack of appetite for opening new US diplomatic footprints in dangerous places following the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi has shelved those plans. Yet the US administration can ill afford to be as blind as it is today to northern Nigerian politics.
Relations with South Africa 'awkward'
Senegal and Tanzania are straightforward visits for Obama but not South Africa which theoretically is a strategic partner of the US. South Africa proudly flaunts its membership of the BRICS and sees itself as a vanguard of a new global governance order. Its African National Congress regularly issues communiques condemning US imperial aggression, offering solidarity to Havana, Tehran and Ramallah. The 2011 Libyan intervention in particular is still a raw issue as despite backing UNSC resolution 1973, South Africa's official position was against the NATO bombing and in support of the African Union's 'road map to peace'.
The US-South Africa relationship has been awkward for many years, following a fairly constructive period during the transition from apartheid until the late 1990s. This is despite a US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue and the fact that the US is still one of South Africa’s key trading partners in the world.
President Obama's visit will not immediately change this prickly relationship but given South Africa’s leadership role in Africa including as a member of the G20, it is important the US and South Africa can understand their respective strategic concerns, improve bilateral relations and trade, and seek common solutions to shared common goals, such as poverty reduction, global health and education.
With elections in Zimbabwe and Swaziland in coming months, a deepening political crisis in Madagascar, continued instability in eastern Congo, and armed violence erupting in Mozambique threatening 20 years of peace, South Africa’s neighbourhood does not look stable and Pretoria and Washington will need a better strategic partnership than the one they have currently.
Alex Vines is Research Director, Area Studies and International Law; and Head, Africa Programme of Chatham House.
With more than 85% of its population under the age of 35, the most naturally rain fed arable land in the world, a huge power deficit, and over 650 million mobile phone subscribers, “Africa has arrived,” says Ugandan businessman Ashish Thakkar, founder and chief executive of pan-African business conglomerate Mara Group.
Mara Group operates 16 companies in 26 countries from its base in Dubai. It has over 7,500 employees across industries ranging from tech and call center businesses to glass manufacturing, steel, agriculture, sugar, banking, and insurance. The group has a billion-dollar portfolio, according to Thakkar.
He notes that today, Africa is where India and China were 10 years ago.
“The Indian tiger and the Chinese dragon have had their days, it’s now the African lion’s turn,” says Thakkar, emphasizing the huge market opportunity and the massive potential the continent presents. ‘Lion’ is also the logo of the Mara Group.
According to a World Bank report, the number of mobile phones has grown 40-fold since the year 2000, and Africa now has more mobile phone users than either the United States or the European Union. Internet bandwidth has grown 20-fold as hundreds of thousands of miles of new cables have been laid across the continent to serve a billion people.
Thakkar’s group hopes to disrupt this booming market as it leverages its offline presence in 19 African countries. Mara Ison Technologies, one of largest IT service providers of Africa, recorded $25 million in EBITDA this year.
Mara Mentor provides online mentorship to budding entrepreneurs. It has logged over 130,000 users, according to Thakkar, who serves as a mentor himself. Mara Launchpad, yet another initiative, is a model built on lines similar to Y Combinator and 500 Startups.
Talking of the business incubator, Thakkar said, “It is very sexy to be working out of your bedrooms and garages in [the West], but in our part of the world, people don’t trust you. Therefore, we’ve set up incubation centers for entrepreneurs.”
The group recently launched Mara Connect, which it calls its “competition to Skype,” and is working on bringing an instant messenger and a social media network to market very soon.
The company is looking to partner with investors from Silicon Valley for Mara Online, its online and mobile platform that constitutes Mara Mentor and Mara Connect. Mara Online allows users to communicate and collaborate with one another through various applications. The plan is to add more apps this year.
“My dream is I want to make Mara the most exciting African brand,” a modest Thakkar told VentureBeat, with a sparkle in his eyes. The young billionaire wants you to think “Mara” when you think “Africa.”
An official advisor to presidents of Uganda and Tanzania, and Africa’s second astronaut, Thakkar also aspires to “make Africa self-sustainable in all respects.” Think big, start small, scale up, and be positive is his advice to fellow entrepreneurs. Thakkar started his billion-dollar business conglomerate from a briefcase at age 15, when he saw his parents struggling.
Having lived through the Idi Amin saga of 1972, and Rwandan genocide of 1994, the Thakkar family lost everything they built two times. The second time around, Thakkar decided to drop out of school, pack his bags, and head to Dubai to support his family.
“I went to Dubai, filled my suitcase with motherboards, processors, and hard drives, came back to Uganda, sold Monday to Friday, and went back to Dubai on weekends, filled my suitcase. … I did this for four months,” he says.
Humble beginnings started yielding big results when the shrewd teenager set up base in Dubai to get credit from his suppliers, and in turn gave it to his African counterparts. “I got 45 days of credit by giving postdated checks, and I would give 21-30 days of credit,” recalls Thakkar.
Today, with a presence in 26 countries, the maverick business magnate hopes to put Africa on the world map of opportunity.
“Keep hope alive,” a mantra propagated by United States Civil Right leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson, when he was campaigning to become the first Black President of America. Although he failed short of his ambition, yet his hopeful dream was kept alive and eventually Barack Obama became the first Black President of United States. This scenario can be liken to a hopeful Africa which at this point time is in transition, and arguably with Africa ascending economic buoyancy the future of the continent is hopeful and promising.
As World Economic Forum gathering in South Africa took off, the focus was on Africa with great emphasis on the sustainability of the continent‘s economic growth. The World Economic Forum’s leitmotif on Africa was called, “Delivering on Africa’s Promise.” All things being equal, it is intrinsic to recognize that delivering the promise of political and economic stability in Africa have core internal impediments that may inhibits its sustainability. These obstructions are corruption, insecurity, poor infrastructures and host of other problems. But for now let us celebrate Africa for the milestone reached despite these obstacles that grounded in mismanagement and massive corruption.
World Economic Forum detailed its description on Africa economic growth with a rosy observation: “With an expected annual growth of 5% in 2012-2013, sub-Saharan Africa continues its transformative journey from a developing continent to a hub of global growth. According to the World Bank, almost half of Africa’s countries have attained middle-income status. At the same time, the continent’s positive outlook is threatened by fluctuating commodity prices, rising inequality and youth unemployment. To build on its achievements, Africa’s leaders need to strengthen the continent’s competitiveness, foster inclusive growth and build resilience in a volatile global environment. Accelerating economic diversification, boosting strategic infrastructure and unlocking talent are critical success factors in this new leadership context.”
The noted key point is that Africa’s young and dynamic work force is its greatest resource and must be sufficiently trained to deliver the African promise.
Yes! Africa is heading to a better place, a hopeful Africa has not arrived to the promise land, but one can begin to see that Africa is gradually but steadily awakening from her deep stagnation and is now struggling to stand on her feet. I cannot be accused of overstating the reality or exaggeration on the state of Africa, but African century may be knocking at the door of 21st century. Africa has suffered long enough by her own hands and in the hands of outsiders. She has been through a massive abuse and humiliation – slavery, colonialism, dictatorship and health crisis but it is beginning to look like the renewal of the Africa has commenced. It may be a baby step; notwithstanding something interesting is taking place in Africa.
The hopeful Africa is getting attention of the world. International organizations, Western think tanks and media are high lightening Africa with positive stories and responsiveness never seen before. The World Economic Forum is in the vanguard of giving a positive attention and reflection on the emerging continent. This is not happening because they are enamored of Africa but there are arrays of good news coming to Africa that even Steve Wonder can see them. Moreover, in the era of interdependence and globalization, interested parties are not driven by charity.
African Union Chairperson, Dr Dlamini Zuma making remarks during the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, South Africa 09 May 2013, as President Zuma and others listen.
Africa‘s rising economy is making believers out many prominent business executives and economists. Beyond World economic Forum, many others are calling attention to Africa’s rising tide including Mohamed A. El-Erian, the CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO. This is a big deal; Mohamed A. El-Erian is a force to be reckoned with on the global business scene, his PIMCO is a global investment management firm, which is among one of the world’s largest bond investors with approximately US$1.9 trillion of assets as of September 1, 2012.
And when El-Erian speaks the world of business listens, his words on Africa: “Not since the countries of Africa tossed out their colonial masters several decades ago has there been this much optimism and excitement about the continent's prospects. While China's economic expansion has slowed, and while Europe and the United States try to dig themselves out of recession, Africa has not only weathered an up-and-down global economy -- it's been booming. Consider Nigeria's stock market, which gained 35 percent last year, or Uganda's, up 39 percent. But even more important is that real gains are finally being made on the ground in Africa today -- ones that speak to the possibility of a breakout phase that would lift millions out of utter poverty and great misery. Let's start with the numbers. According to International Monetary Fund data, sub-Saharan Africa has grown at an annual rate of 4.8 percent over the last five years, a period that includes the trauma of the global financial crisis. That means it has outperformed other developing regions -- like Latin America, for example, at 3.3 percent -- and it blows out of the water the advanced economies, which expanded just 0.5 percent per year.”
There are facts and realities in Africa that cannot be neglected or easily set aside. For a while most of the industrial economies were mired in sluggish growth but Africa growth was unstoppable. While the rest of the global economic growth is 2.4 percent in 2013, African economic is hovering above 5.0 percent. The five of the ten fastest economies in the world are in Africa and the whole world is taking notice of that, even some of African countries economic growths are exceeding 7.0 percent. Nigeria economy is bubbling with foreign reserve over $50 billion US dollar. This is why the world is coming to Africa, to encourage a sustainable growth and participate in the bounty.
Five of the fasted growing economies in the world are In Africa but it must be highlighted that Africa rising economic tide was mostly driven by natural resources. But high scientific and technological manufacturing industries have not taken root in Africa due to myriads of circumstances; among them is absence of modern infrastructures. Moreover the growing African economies have not made a dent on poverty and unemployment.
Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, commented recently on this issue: “Natural resource exports have propelled Africa into the world’s high-growth league. Around one-third of the region’s economies grew by more than 6 percent in 2012. Strong demand in emerging markets is set to drive another decade of high prices for Africa’s natural resources, and foreign investment is on the rise. Mozambique and Tanzania are poised to emerge as major exporters of natural gas. Guinea and Sierra Leone stand to reap windfall gains from iron ore exports. Demand for Zambia’s copper and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s cobalt is booming. “
And Annan continued and emphasis on the issue of poverty, “Unfortunately, the rising tide of wealth is not lifting all boats. Poverty has been falling far too slowly, and in some countries — including Zambia and Nigeria — it has increased. Few governments have used the increased revenues generated by resource exports to counteract rising inequality, build better health care and education systems or strengthen smallholder agriculture. Moreover, corruption remains endemic.”
By no means have Africa enormous problems been solved but an emerging and hopeful Africa is not backing away from her responsibilities. Also, it must be noted that many small African countries are still struggling with debts, deficits, poverty and unemployment. The issue of joblessness is affecting all African nations without exception. Nigeria is struggling with big gap between the rich and the poor, compounded with large unemployment especially among the youths. Many active observers are blaming the rise of sectarian violence in Nigeria due to poverty and lack of jobs among the restive youths.
Corruption is bane of development in the continent. Corruption has not gone away and continues to impact negatively on the society. The only solace is that Africa is no longer denying the destructive effect of corruption and Africa is not defensive about corruption anymore. Even the corrupt leaders have acknowledged that corruption must be controlled and reduce to enable sustainable development.
One of the greatest gain made by Africa is the steadily rejection of indifference and nonchalance that have come to characteristicize old order and leadership. There is an emerging and flickering sense of responsibility that is gradually springing up. But yes there are still quite number of leaders that have refused to change but to erect a bulwark against wind of change. The old order of greed and life time presidency must be give way to the emerging democratic dispensations to make African progrsss sustainable.
The intellectual and talking workshop organized by World Economic Forum have already done a good job on the awareness of Africa’s enormous potential. The rising of Africa is being driven by natural resource; it is not a secret that Africa is natural resource-rich. From oil to natural gas and precious metals, name it, it is under African soil. But the key and operating word for a sustainable economic development is diversification. Africa has to move away from resources extraction to industrial and manufacturing economies.
Industrial Africa cannot be achieved without modern day infrastructures. These include modern roads and rails, uninterrupted electric power for manufacturing and development. Most of the airports in the continent are poorly equipped and Africa is becoming the dumping ground for outdated and second-hand aircrafts. All these can be attributed to many air crashes in Africa. It is quite logical to suggest that Africa’s promise cannot be realized without adequacy of up-to-date and durable infrastructures.
For Africa to become infrastructure sufficiency an enormous resource is needed and African cannot be able to afford it with incurable corruption and gross mismanagement running rampant in the continent. Paul Frimpong, Associate Chartered Economic Policy Analyst / Financial Economist at University of Ghana, recently commented on what it takes to improve the status quo: , “According to the World Bank, about $93 billion is needed annually to be able to fund Africa’s infrastructure for the next 10 years. Which is about 15 percent of the region’s GDP. About $60 billion would go to new projects and the rest would go into the maintenance of the existing ones. Infrastructure development and management is an aspect in which the efficient developments within a society rely heavily upon, and is the cornerstone for socio-economic development. The availability of infrastructure is of great importance in the realization of sustainable development desperately needed in Africa. Infrastructure development and management has become even more essential for Africa’s economic development and integration.”
Frimpong continued to put an emphasis on the public and private sectors working together to realize its objective: “Governments are looking to public-private partnerships (PPPs) to radically improve infrastructure networks in their countries and enhance service delivery to their people. They are hoping that this development finance model — where the state shares risk and responsibility with private firms but ultimately retains control of assets — will improve services, while avoiding some of the pitfalls of privatization: unemployment, higher prices and corruption. This is why Africa has identified the model of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in financing infrastructure. But the question asked is “do we have the necessary strategies in place to make this work in Africa, as we so desperately wants it”? I guess some individuals and institutions across the continent must answer this question.”
Africa’s promise I believed is to have a developed and sustainable economy that can make existence more palatable for her inhabitants. Therefore I will advocate an Infrastructure Bank of Africa, where African nations will borrow and deposit resources solely for maintenance and building of modern infrastructures. The enormous African resources must not be squandered; a reasonable portion of the fund derived from these resources should be deposited at Infrastructure Bank, where it will accumulate progressively with appreciable interest rate. African resources must therefore fueled and catalyzed African development and growth.
World Economic Forum with its global clout can immensely help Africa by giving a compelling reason for funds derived from natural resources to be targeted solely for building and improving infrastructures.
To routinely organize a talking workshop on Africa is without doubt a good thing, but it must be followed by tangible actions that can bring a real change in Africa economic and geographical landscape. World Economic Forum in Africa cannot afford to slide into an intellectual exercise and intellectual workshop where problems are analyzed and dissected without consequentiality.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today declared that while Africans forge ahead with “a new narrative” for their continent, the United Nations will support them as they faced any challenges that remain on the path towards a prosperous future.
In his message to mark Africa Day, which commemorates the founding in 1963 of the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union (AU), Mr. Ban acknowledged that over the past decade, the continent had witnessed “unprecedented progress,” largely at the hands of the AU.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with students at Sansão Muthemba Secondary School in Polana Caniço, Maputo, Mozambique. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
“The launch of the AU's Partnership for Africa's Development and Peer Review Mechanism has helped to advance economic, social, political and institutional reforms,” he stated, referring to the self-monitoring mechanism by which participating African nations promote and re-enforce high standards of governance.
“Similarly, the African Union is playing an increasingly more dynamic leadership role in preventing, managing, and resolving Africa's conflicts through its revamped Peace and Security Architecture,” Mr. Ban added, while noting that many countries were also seeking to energize their private sectors.
The Secretary-General pointed out, however, that despite Africa's gains and achievements, “numerous and serious challenges remain including conflict, environmental degradation, and the need for strengthened infrastructure and institutions.”
“We must accelerate efforts towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), from maternal health to HIV/AIDS, and keep Africa's needs and aspirations front and centre in discussion on the post-2015 development agenda,” he continued.
This year's Africa Day has particular significance because it also marks 50 years of the Organization of African Unity's founding.
Mr. Ban declared that while Africans forge ahead with “a new narrative” for their continent's future, the United Nations would support them along the way.
“The United Nations will proudly continue to work in partnership with the African Union and the peoples of Africa to help build a continent of opportunity and hope for all,” he concluded.
Mr. Ban is currently attending the 21st African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On the margins of the Summit he met with United States Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom he discussed various topics including Syria, the Middle East peace process and developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region.
Three eminent African women made the Forbes annual list of The World’s Most Powerful Women, a list that comprises of 100 women around the globe. The African women on the list were Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Joyce Banda, president of Malawi and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia.
According to the list ranking the most powerful woman in African is Joyce Banda, president of Malawi who moved from 71st ranking position to 47th, while Ellen JohnsonSirleaf, president of Liberia, was ranked 87th on the listing position and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria minister of finance was ranked 83rd from previously 81st position.
Many other Black women made the list including United States first lady, Mitchel Obama, Talk-Show Businesswoman Oprah Winfrey and Singer Beyonce Knowles.
"The list was heavy on top politicians, featuring nine heads of state who run nations with a combined GDP of $11.8tn. Merkel – who has been placed at the top of the Forbes ranking seven times – headed the list again, ahead of Rousseff, who came to power in Brazil in 2011. Hillary Clinton, who has featured in every Most Powerful Women list since the inaugural ranking in 2004, is in fifth place. Despite resigning as secretary of state earlier this year, Clinton remains one of the biggest political hitters on the international stage. The only former first lady to become a US senator, she is now hotly tipped to become the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
Clinton was one place behind the woman already in the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama, who climbed three places to reach fourth.
Apart from Clinton, there are 14 on the 2013 list who appeared on the inaugural list a decade ago: the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde (7), Sonia Gandhi (9), Indra Nooyi, the chief executive of PepsiCo (10), chatshow host Oprah Winfrey (13), UN administrator Helen Clark (21), ABC chief Anne Sweeney (24), Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascall (36), the Queen (40), Fidelity president Abigail Johnson (60), Ho Ching, chief executive of Singapore state investment firm Temasek (64), news anchor Diane Sawyer (73), JK Rowling (93) and Fox news anchor Great Van Susteren (97).," as reported by Guardian UK
The top 10
1. Angela Merkel, German chancellor
2. Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil
3. Melinda Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
4. Michelle Obama, US First Lady
5. Hillary Clinton, former US secretary of state
6. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
7. Christine Lagarde, managing director, IMF
8. Janet Napolitano, US homeland security secretary
9. Sonia Gandhi, president, Indian National Congress party
10. Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo
Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Travel to Africa
President Obama and the First Lady look forward to traveling to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania from June 26 - July 3. The President will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders.
The President will meet with a wide array of leaders from government, business, and civil society, including youth, to discuss our strategic partnerships on bilateral and global issues. The trip will underscore the President’s commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity.
May 2013: OBAM Photos of the Day
President Barack Obama gestures during a meeting in the Oval Office, May 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) Source: The White House
President Barack Obama joins The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, left, and others in the processional before the start of commencement at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, May 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) Source: The White House
RECENT years have brought a renewed interest in Africa as the next big investment destination given its strong growth and dynamic demographic trends.
More than 20 African countries — close to half — have already reached the middle-income mark and 10 more are expected to join by 2025. A growing population and a trend towards urbanisation show potential for a large emerging middle class, while political stability has favoured better economic policies.
This optimism has been reflected widely in the international press, with The Economist hailing Africa as the hopeful continent and Time magazine seeing "Africa rising". Indeed, it is reminiscent of the awakening of many Asian economies a few decades ago.
There remain vast challenges to attaining a sustained Asian-style growth path in Africa. Improving competitiveness and fostering regional integration are an important part of the story of how the continent can achieve this goal. Africa’s population of 1-billion — set to increase to 1.6-billion by 2030 — has the potential for a massive economic boost through a "demographic dividend" similar to the one seen across much of Asia. Yet benefiting from this trend will require African economies to properly train and create employment opportunities for the 10-million new entrants to the job market every year.
Competitive economies are those that have in place the institutions, factors and policies that drive productivity and thus support high and rising living standards and growth. The Africa Competitiveness Report 2013 shows growth has so far not been sufficiently matched by improvements in competitiveness.
Competitiveness is uneven across the region: countries such as South Africa and Mauritius are reasonably strong but 14 out of the 20 least competitive countries in the world hail from Africa. African economies trail other emerging regions such as Southeast Asia and Latin America on the basic building blocks of a competitive economy, such as effective governance and institutions, adequate infrastructure and education.
Only half of the population in Africa attends secondary school, and a mere 10% go on to higher education, compared with close to 40% in Latin America and Asia. And, despite rapid mobile telephone adoption and success stories such as the M-Pesa mobile money exchange system in Kenya, information and communications technology uptake remains considerably lower than in other regions, which have been moving even faster to adopt them.
The region’s transport infrastructure is a major barrier to more diversified, higher-value-added activities. Poor roads, insufficient port capacity and outdated railroads make it difficult and expensive to do business and get goods to market at the national level as well as hampering trade and greater regional integration. This is aggravated by high levels of corruption, insufficient property rights and poor governance in many countries, which make it exceedingly difficult to address effectively many of the other problems. Such shortcomings continue to constrain most African economies to producing basic goods and remaining insufficiently diversified.
Africa is the world’s most fragmented economy, making regional integration an important opportunity for boosting competitiveness. Despite many regional trading initiatives, much remains to be achieved. In 2011, sub-Saharan African economies exported a mere 12% of their goods within their region, compared with 25% in Southeast Asia, 49% in North America and 65% in the European Union. For Asia, increased regional trade over the past two decades has also boosted its ability to export to other regions: trade in developing Asia more than doubled between 1995 and 2010, while trade in sub-Saharan Africa stagnated at a level below 2% of total world trade over the same period.
Trade policies in Africa have traditionally focused on facilitating access to developed-country market economies. This is a very different approach from the one taken in Southeast Asia, where trade polices focus on developing regional value chains that link into global value chains.
These efforts have been accompanied by competitiveness-enhancing policies targeting the institutional framework, facilitating business across borders and mobilising the region’s talent pool. In other words, regional integration is not an end in itself, but a reinforcing process that requires addressing competitiveness challenges within the country to lay the basis for a strong and striving private sector and increased productivity.
For Africa, the lesson is to focus on enhancing national competitiveness and reinforcing regional integration: when these efforts go hand in hand, they can be expected to reinforce one another.
In the face of these obstacles, there are some positive signs. We have seen some improvement over the past decade in the provision of healthcare and education, as well as more stable and efficient governance structures in many countries. And efforts made by regional economic communities are going forward, such as the launch of the common market in the East African Community and progress towards building free trade areas in the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Community of West African States.
History has shown that enhanced trade and regional integration expand economic possibilities and boost performance. This is now driving the Europeans and Americans — desperate to revive their sagging economies — to seriously explore a transatlantic free-trade area. Africa is at a crossroads, and decisions and polices made today will determine the region’s future development path and whether the current optimistic outlook is justified.
To bolster economic potential, reforms and investments are needed that will increase productivity and competitiveness, while greater regional integration will provide an important stepping stone to more diversified, inclusive and sustained growth.
Africa’s leaders should take note and recognise that it is an auspicious moment to take a forward-looking approach and set their economies on sustained growth paths so that future generations can reap the benefits of the continent’s enormous potential.
• Blanke is chief economist and senior director at the World Economic Forum. Ko is an economist in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness and Benchmarking Network.