Africa Brief: WEF on the ‘promise of Africa’, food production in sub-Saharan Africa and more

WEF meeting to discuss ‘the promise of Africa’

Diversifying Africa’s resource-dependent economies and speeding up the infrastructure development so vital to its future will be two of the main topics at this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa. This week’s event carries the theme “Delivering on Africa’s Promise”. “We feel this reflects not only the optimism that abounds on this continent right now but also the sense of urgency to build on the many positive developments that have taken place,” said the WEF’s Africa director Elsie Kanzaat at a media briefing last week.

Africa may boast one of the fastest paces of economic growth in the world but this is of limited value amid poverty and inequality.

The structure of African economies is not changing fast enough — Africa still has a basic commodity dependence, with its export profile dominated by commodities,”

said Standard Chartered’s regional research head for Africa Razia Khan. The third big topic for the con­ference is “Unlocking Africa’s Talent” — which refers to the need to focus on the continent’s skills gap, employment creation and support for local entrepreneurs.

For the full story, read WEF meeting to discuss ‘the promise of Africa’ by Mariam Isa, published by Business Day on 06/05/13

Food production faltering in sub-Saharan Africa

Food production in sub-Saharan Africa must rise by 50% to feed an esti­mated population of 1.3-billion by 2030, a leading man­agement consultant group says. Investment of about $93bn a year is needed to develop the infrastructure required to sup­port the region’s agricultural sec­tor, according to Grant Hatch, MD of strategy and sustainability at Accenture SA.

Agriculture accounts for more than one-third of the reg­ion’s economic output and two-thirds of its employment, but this is mainly in the form of subsis­tence farming, which provides rural livelihoods but not food self-sufficiency. An accenture report shows that food production in sub-Saharan Africa has lagged other develop­ing regions in the world, leading to widespread food insecurity.

According to an index com­piled by Accenture, 12 sub-Saharan Africa countries are severely affected by food security problems. These include Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique and Lesotho. It shows only four coun­tries in the region have high food security — SA, Gabon, Angola and Nigeria. Water scarcity is a challenge which will become more severe in the years ahead. Several things need to happen to address the issue of food security on the continent.

Governments have to ensure that the correct policies are in place — tariffs, the tax regime and incentives to encourage the private sector to invest in agriculture. The private sector, universi­ties and nongovernmental orga­nisations should help to provide modern farming skills to the peo­ple. Africa’s small-scale subsis­tence farmers have to evolve into small-scale farmers and then medium-scale commercial producers. Large companies need to set up large-scale commercial production.

For the full story, read Food production faltering in sub-Saharan Africa by Mariam Isa, published by Business Day on 06/05/13

The sad deterioration of Nigeria’s foreign policy

Nigeria likes to see itself as the “giant of Africa”: it has impeccable “struggle credentials”, having played a leading role in the liberation of Southern Africa; its peacekeepers helped calm two civil conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s; it was instrumental in building the institutions of the African Union (AU); and it has peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, and Mali.

Yet Nigeria has become a giant with clay feet. Under Jonathan’s administration since 2010, Nigeria’s foreign policy has suffered terminal decline and the country’s interna­tional voice has become muted. Despite Nigeria being the fifth-largest contributor to UN peacekeeping globally, the quality of its soldiers has been questioned; they have often not been equipped to UN standards; and many of the country’s armoured personnel carriers have broken down in mission areas. This has damaged the country’s impressive peacekeeping record.

In spite of its own recent peacekeeping fiasco in the Central African Republic, there is a growing sense that SA has become a more strategic actor in global diplomacy than Nigeria. SA is the only African member of Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) and the Group of 20, and remains the only African country out of 10 global strategic partners of the European Union (EU). As if to reinforce this, the World Economic Forum, which Jonathan is attending this week, is being held in Cape Town, not Lagos.

Perhaps the most damaging sign of the loss of influence in Nigeria’s foreign policy is the recent French-led military intervention in Mali. While the elimination of the militant threat in northern Mali is in the interest of Africa and the West, France has still in effect launched an old-style neocolonial interven­tion in a country in Nigeria’s backyard.  More recently, as its economy has declined and its military spending reduced. Pax Gallica has trumped Pax Nigeriana.

Although Nigeria’s contribution of peace­keepers to the new UN mission in Mali is consistent with its foreign policy objectives, the country’s actions abroad increasingly lack strategic vision. Even as Abuja prepares to return to the UN Security Council next year, there have been continuing reports of delays in paying its UN dues. Within AU circles, there have been reports of Nigeria dragging its feet on delivering on promises of financial support to the AU mission in Somalia.

For the full story, read The sad deterioration of Nigeria’s foreign policy by Adekeye Adebajo, published by Business Day on 06/05/13

David Okwara

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