Africa 2015 – 16

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Africa is not a country. It’s a continent
See also Africa: Conflict and governance 2015

Dear Africa, Louise Linton Is On Us
Can we truly subscribe to and take ownership of the Africa Rising narrative when we can’t build and manage our own highways, schools, or halls of governance, and our presidents are flying out of the country to treat a flu?
We must wake up and address the conditions that allowed Louise to come and give a Coke and a toothy smile to Zimba.
If there’s anything we can take away from the rising backlash against misrepresentation of the continent, it is this: there is a growing educated and connected class of Africans whose rising agency represents the shearing headwinds unwitting white saviors must navigate in their attempt to use the continent as a training device for sainthood. It is here where I am hopeful that we’ll be introspective enough to address our culpability.
The only thing Louise Linton learned on her gap-year trip to Africa was how to be an oblivious jerk
(Quartz) When considering who is best qualified to write about life in Zambia, a white, Scottish actress who spent a little time in the country as a teenager probably isn’t the first person to come to mind. Yet this week, the public was treated to just such an ill-advised missive: Louise Linton’s laughably titled Telegraph article, “How my dream gap year in Africa turned into a nightmare.”
Zambians have also rightly and resoundingly rejected the premise of the article and memoir, pointing out numerous instances of embellishment and inaccuracy, if not outright fabrication. “The biggest grievance, according to readers from Zambia, is Linton’s misrepresentation of one of the most stable countries on the continent,” writes Quartz’s Lily Kuo.
29 June
Kenya lags in conservation progress on delayed space tech law
while other governments had made tremendous progress in conservation and in their anti-poaching battle, Kenya continues to lag behind due to its delay to legalise use of space technology to monitor movement of endangered wildlife and large swathes of protected forests against deforestation.
An international conference on use of space technology to combat wildlife crimes and enhance biodiversity held in Nairobi heard that Kenya was incurring heavy losses worth billions of shillings due to uncontrolled illegal activities.
7 January
Sixty hostages freed, 20 people killed in Al-Qaida attack on Burkina Faso hotel
More than 100 people are thought to have been in the hotel when it was seized by Islamic militants in the capital Ouagadougou
Burkina Faso, a largely Muslim country, has been in turmoil since its longtime president was ousted in a popular uprising in late 2014. Last September members of a presidential guard launched a coup that lasted only about a week. The transitional government returned to power until Burkina Faso’s November election ushered in new leaders.
7 January
Lighting up Africa: the UK’s plan to expand access to energy
New UK international development minister Nick Hurd wants to boost off-grid solar power in the only region where the number of those without access to modern energy is set to rise
(The Guardian) Hurd has his sights set on the seventh sustainable development goal: universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030. But sub-Saharan Africa is currently 50 years behind, the only region in the world where the number of people denied access to modern forms of energy is set to rise and, based on current trends, predicted to hit the goal by 2080.
Inspired by Barack Obama’s flagship Power Africa programme, Hurd hopes that Energy Africa can make a key difference. Last month the US and UK projects came together to create a new partnership to address specific issues such as the need for shared power across borders, resources for geothermal power, and to boost the number of women participating in Africa’s solar industry.
But unlike Power Africa, which has been catalysing a wide range of renewable energy projects that will connect to the national grid – from a vast solar farm in Rwanda to the first wind power project in Senegal – Energy Africa has a very specific objective: to accelerate off-grid solar power for households using private investment.
1 January
Foresight Africa 2016: Free trade agreements and the implications for Africa
(Brookings) Much of the world is entering into mega-regional free trade areas (FTAs). Indeed, October 5, 2015 marked the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the most significant trade agreement in recent years. Now, the United States is currently negotiating with the European Union toward the establishment of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). When combined, the TPP and the TTIP will cover 60 percent of global GDP.
But where does that leave sub-Saharan Africa, as no country in the region is party to these agreements? According to Foresight Africa issue brief author, Brookings Global Economy and Development Senior Fellow Joshua P. Meltzer, these exclusions will impede African businesses’ ability to compete on a global scale. … Sub-Saharan Africa will fall behind for many reasons. First, the preferential access offered through the TPP will lead to relatively higher tariffs for trade with Africa. A second reason is, as Meltzer argues in his brief, new, tougher labor, environment, and health and safety standards enshrined in the TPP will become de facto global standards, and African businesses may struggle to meet them. African trade may also suffer because of its growing dependence on the services sector and new rules around global supply chains, on which Meltzer elaborates in Foresight Africa this year.

2015

Two brilliant bits of satire:
How to Write about Africa and
It’s Africans’ turn to help Norwegians
Brookings Sub-Saharan Africa

Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2015
The year 2015 will be an eventful one for the more than one billion people living in Africa. From elections to the post-2015 development agenda, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative experts and colleagues identify what they consider to be the key issues for the continent in the coming year. (Brookings, January 2015)

13 October
UN Marks Africa Week 2015, Highlights Integration
(IPS) – African member states’ vision and ambition echo their peoples’ aspirations and builds on the continent’s robust economic growth, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a High-Level Event on the “Role of African Regional and Sub-Regional Organizations in Achieving Regional Integration.”
The High-Level meeting is the first in a series of events marking Africa Week 2015, whose theme is “Moving From Aspirations to Reality.” Organized by the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA), Africa Week 2015 engages member states and other stakeholders to address the continent’s development priorities.
It specifically focuses on implementing both the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Adopted in January 2015 by African heads of State, Agenda 2063 is an action plan for “all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa.”
It includes commitments to industrialise economies, develop infrastructure, eradicate poverty, improve education, and act on climate change. “They seek to build lives with quality education and health care, decent jobs, a clean environment and tolerant, inclusive and democratic societies,” noted the Secretary-General in his opening remarks.
“They demand and deserve a future where guns are silenced throughout the continent and poverty and hunger have no place,” Ban continued.
Why China’s model of capitalism is popular in Africa—and America’s isn’t
(Quartz) We live in a bipolar world. History has not quite ended even though it’s pretty much accepted that capitalism has triumphed over socialism. But which version of capitalism? There is the free market, democratic approach of most of the western world, with the US as its most visible example. Or there’s the state-dominated version epitomized by China. In Africa, it seems, both approaches are slugging it out for supremacy.
The US, long thought of as the model for democratic governance, is lately losing some of that cachet on the continent, thanks to a lackluster economy, political paralysis, and the threat of government default on its loans. Meanwhile, China’s extraordinary economic transformation—guided by leaders who prize stability and growth over political freedoms—is being seen by some African states as a model for their economies. Tanzania, for example, which is a democracy, speaks admiringly of China’s example. Others go even further, saying that democracy might not be the best approach for development, that for some countries to succeed, discipline is more important than democracy.
5 August
Africa’s Green Energy Opportunity
By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Nicholas Stern
(Project Syndicate) Climate change confronts developing countries with a dilemma. On one hand, they are particularly vulnerable to its effects, giving them a strong interest in the global reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions. On the other hand, they are in desperate need of energy, with some 1.3 billion people around the world – and two out of three Africans – currently lacking access to electricity.
In the past, the solutions to these imperatives would have been at odds with each other. Providing more people with access to electricity would have necessitated emitting more greenhouse gases, aggravating the consequences of climate change. Fortunately, the economics of energy has shifted significantly in recent years. It is now possible to expand access to energy in developing countries while also limiting emissions – if investments are channeled into clean energy.
Africa, where much of the energy infrastructure is being built from scratch, could take the lead in renewable energy production. Indeed, the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that the continent’s potential for wind and solar power alone amounts to more than 1.5 trillion gigawatt hours a year.
But if this opportunity is to be seized and the clean-energy transition accelerated, a series of institutional bottlenecks must be removed. Governments must put in place stable and supportive policies and regulations, reduce investment risks in the sector, and properly price clean energy. Steps should include the elimination of fossil-fuel subsidies, setting a price for CO2 emissions, and improving the governance of electricity markets.
Meanwhile, multilateral and national development banks should increase funding for climate-related investments, shift resources away from projects that imply a large carbon footprint, and coordinate stakeholders and investors, so that risks can be mitigated and private-sector finance can be attracted.
31 July
Cecil the lionThe killing of Cecil the lion outside Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe has created a global uproar in traditional and especially on social media. Along with the targeting and shaming of the American dentist and acclaimed trophy hunter, and any and all who practice the “sport”, it is to be profoundly hoped that there will be an increased awareness of and outcry against the despicable poaching of wild animals for the trade of body parts craved by superstitious consumers of some so-called traditional medicines. The recent UN General Assembly resolution “expresses  concern that illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora is in some cases an increasingly sophisticated form of transnational organized crime that poses a threat to health and safety, security, good governance and the sustainable development of States.”  Zimbabwe Says It Will Seek Extradition Of American Dentist Who Killed Lion, but we cannot help but wonder how much of the authorities’ outrage is due to the global outcry – and where was that outcry in March when Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for ‘obscene’ 91st birthday party?
There are those who argue that the (predominantly) white trophy hunters bring welcome money to the local communities, however this is rebutted by the fact-filled Quartz piece
Cecil the lion didn’t have to die: Trophy hunting hurts Africa’s ecosystems and economies which concludes “Regardless of what proponents of the sport claim, the numbers don’t add up. Trophy hunting is damaging to the environment, and the so-called economic benefits aren’t nearly substantial enough to justify it—if you can put a price tag on biodiversity to begin with.”
The final word, at least for now, goes to the Brookings Institution. Getting past the emotions around Cecil the Lion: Hard truths about conservation and trophy hunting
“The uneasy bottom line is that there is no one answer, and there should not be one uniform policy as to whether to allow the continued hunting of lions and other trophy hunting, or banning the practice. Policy specificity is key: What needs to be taken into account in deciding whether to permit hunting are the conditions of the species and ecosystem in a particular place; their reproductive requirements; law enforcement capacities to enforce compliance with licenses, or conversely with a total ban; and the likelihood that the money obtained from the license will actually end up in conservation and support better environmental conservation or be stolen by a few. Along with the species biological requirements, conservation success comes down—once again—to effective, enlightened, equitable governance and rooting out corruption.”
See also Discovery — The Big Picture Surrounding Cecil the Lion’s Death: How Can We Save Lions?
29 July
Helping solve Africa’s poverty puzzle
Put simply, despite solid growth since about 1995, Africa’s economies have not generated a sufficient number of jobs that pay enough to draw households out of poverty.
(Brookings) It is not just that poverty in Africa is deeper and more widespread than in other regions. Economic growth should be able to overcome that, and many African economies have sustained growth over the past two decades. Rather, poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is a puzzle. It responds to income growth and to changes in income distribution less than anywhere else in the developing world. Africa’s structural pattern of growth is largely responsible for the tenuous connection between growth and poverty reduction. Put simply, despite solid growth since about 1995, Africa’s economies have not generated a sufficient number of jobs paying wages that draw households out of poverty. In Asia, where poverty has fallen dramatically, economies experienced significant changes in their economic structure, as workers moved from low-productivity sectors such as agriculture into higher-productivity manufacturing, boosting growth and real wages. In Africa structural change has contributed very little to growth. In fact until the turn of the 21st century an increasing share of African workers found themselves in low-productivity, low-wage employment.
Obama in Kenya: A report from the field and a recap of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit
(Brookings) Start-ups in Africa, however, are frequently self-funded and dependent on finding a commercial niche that enables them to be sustainable. Most will never attract venture capital, and finding skilled employees is a major problem. As one entrepreneur from Ethiopia remarked, her business is “me, myself, and I,” even though she has hired 10-20 employees to fill orders as they come in. Western entrepreneurs think about their businesses as being part of an eco-system. In Africa, it seems that entrepreneurs are more focused on being part of a value chain and finding a market for their products. As one conference participant put it, entrepreneurship in Africa is about turning challenge into opportunity. …
Perhaps most interesting to me for African entrepreneurs was Ross Baird of the successful Village Capital who emphasized that it is essential to know where the market will be in 20-30 years and discussed how to position a company to grow into that market. As a result, Village Capital has focused on early phase investments in African start-ups at a range between $50,000 and $500,000. The firm has made 114 venture deals of less than $1 million over the last year.
What President Obama didn’t see on his trip to Africa
(Brookings) … except for a few high-tech entrepreneurs in Kenya and the staff of a U.S.-sponsored food supplement plant in Ethiopia it is unlikely he saw many Africans engaged in modern, high productivity jobs at all. That is because, despite nearly 20 years of solid GDP growth, Africa’s economies are creating too few jobs in the sectors that count: those with output per worker high enough to offer decent wages and a path out of poverty. More worrying still, the fastest growers are creating the fewest jobs (see Figure 1). Ethiopia and Kenya, the two countries on this visit, are among the region’s least successful countries in converting economic growth into employment growth. This is not how economic transformation is supposed to work.
23 July
As Obama Visits His Father’s Home, Kenya and the U.S. Must Look to the Future
Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya
America’s vision and generosity for a distant country struggling for independence laid the foundation for a future President Barack Obama and everything that means to the progression of African American unity.
20 July
An unfinished agenda: The progress of U.S.-backed economic development goals in Africa
(Brookings) After what some have called a “slow start” (associated in part with the 2008 financial crisis), the Obama administration has initiated a formidable list of new U.S. government programs in sub-Saharan Africa, with a high point reached last summer when the president convened the first-ever U.S. Africa Leaders Summit. A defining feature of all the Obama administration’s activities in Africa has been the great emphasis the president has placed on improving the U.S.-African commercial relationship and supporting broader inclusive economic growth throughout the region. Each of his signature programs have consistently included a prominent role for the business community, with Power Africa reportedly leveraging an astounding $20 billion in commitments from the private sector to support badly needed electricity generation and access in the region.
13 July
Has the sun set on Africa’s growth story?
(CNBC) Sub-Saharan Africa has been the darling of frontier market investors for several years, with post-conflict countries like Ivory Coast and Mozambique posting growth rates of 7 percent or higher in 2013.
However, a combination of tumbling commodity prices and slower growth in China—not to mention negative publicity from the Ebola epidemic and increasing terrorism in the region—could see its appeal for investors wane.
John Ashbourne, who covers sub-Saharan African markets for Capital Economics, told CNBC that economists were increasingly downbeat on the region from a domestic standpoint as well.
He said that some of the biggest risks in the region included Kenya’s current account deficit and currency weakness, slow growth in South Africa and the hefty efforts needed by Nigeria’s new president to get the economy back on track.
Plus, he warned that the region’s rapidly growing population could face challenges from overstretched public sectors and natural resources, as well as difficulties in labor markets absorbing fast-rising workforces.
9 June
Africa wasn’t always about poverty–so why do so many believe that’s the case?
(Quartz) The apparent dearth of written historical records, owing to the slow adoption of writing technology and the humid environment that makes preservation difficult, meant that historians of Africa had to find alternative ways to unravel the continent’s past. But since at least the 1960s, archaeology, linguistics, and oral histories all contributed to establish African history as one of the leading intellectual pursuits.
1 June
The lesser known story of India’s role in Ethiopian land deals
(The Conversation) In 2008 prices of some foods, including wheat, soared by 130% in a single year and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s food price index shot up 40%.
The result was a frenzied scramble that saw countries acquire an estimated 40 million hectares of land in foreign countries, most of it in Africa.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the role of the US, the largest investor in land in the world, China and Middle Eastern countries. Much less attention has been given to the role of India. A global land monitoring initiative, Land Matrix, ranks India as one of the top 10 investors in land abroad. It is the biggest investor in land in Ethiopia, with Indian companies accounting for almost 70% the land acquired by foreigners after 2008.

Gone are the days of dictators and planned economies running the show south of the Sahel. Today, Africa boasts 23 democracies – 20 more than in 1989; two women heads of state, one of whom is also a Nobel Laureate; an emerging middle class, which makes up nearly one third of its population; and waning reliance on aid in place of self sufficiency through employment.
A continent that once relied on aid now thrives through associations. Numerous NGOs have partnered with groups in Rwanda to educate their youth. Through the Bridge2Rwanda program, young Rwandans are now attending university in the United States with plans to repatriate after graduation to advance their nation. Carnegie Mellon University – a top 30 research institution — even opened a campus in Kigali, putting Western education in the heart of Africa.
Africa’s emerging markets compliment the increased availability to education. Africa now has 15 active stock exchanges compared to only five in 1989, with 22 participating countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This active economic sector and increased stability has attracted companies including Google, who operates six offices in Sub-Saharan Africa; IBM, who opened a new office in Senegal; Wal Mart, who is looking to expand operations in South Africa; and Dow, who recently opened an office in Kenya.
With markets on the rise, a growing middle class, women in positions of power and with more readily available education, there is no doubt that Africa is rising. But even with these advancements, the countries making strides need to continue on their upward trajectory and the handful of notable detractors who continue toe the line of Africa’s tumultuous past need to learn from the continent’s new leaders. With work still to be done, Africa’s untapped potential could very well turn into one of international development’s greatest success stories. (Africa Rising, American Outlook Winter 2014)

1 May
China invests billions in African infrastructure
(Brookings) Since the early 2000s, China has become an increasingly significant source of financing for African infrastructure projects, as noted in a recent Brookings paper, “Financing African infrastructure: Can the world deliver?” This week, observers have seen an additional spike in African infrastructure investments from Chinese firms, as three major railway, real estate, and other infrastructure deals were struck on the continent, totaling nearly $7.5 billion in investments.
On Monday, April 27, the state-owned China Railway Construction Corp announced that it will construct a $3.5 billion railway line in Nigeria, as well as a $1.9 billion real estate project in Zimbabwe. Then on Wednesday, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (one of the country’s largest lenders) signed a $2 billion deal with the government of Equatorial Guinea in order to carry out a number of infrastructure projects throughout the country. These deals align with China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy of building infrastructure in Africa and throughout the developing world in order to further integrate their economies, stimulate economic growth, and ultimately increase demand for Chinese exports. For more insight into China’s infrastructure lending in Africa and the implications of these investments for the region’s economies, please see the following piece by Africa Growth Initiative Nonresident Fellow Yun Sun: “Inserting Africa into China’s One Belt, One Road strategy: A new opportunity for jobs and infrastructure?”

West African countries seek “Marshall Plan” to regain economic health
Leaders from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are asking other world leaders and organizations to help them lift the Ebola-stricken countries back to social and economic health. “The most important long-term response to Ebola therefore rests in plans and strategies for economic recovery,” says Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s president. Yahoo/Agence France-Presse (3/3)

5 key issues for Africa in 2015
Leading topics for Africa in 2015 include efforts to stop polio and malaria, innovative approaches to energy and democratic elections in 13 African countries, writes John Campbell. Continued political instability and lower oil prices are among the challenges, he writes. Council on Foreign Relations online/Africa in Transition blog (1/1)

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