Africa’s challenges and promise

Under the theme “Delivering on Africa’s Promise”, the 23rd World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa will provide an important platform for regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to deepen the continent’s integration agenda and renew commitment to a sustainable path of growth and development.

In the closing public sessions at the 2013 World Economic Forum in Cape Town, an influential group of speakers shared insights on the subject of the African Economic Outlook, specifically around:

Continuing from African economic prospects: Where to from here and The issues shaping Africa’s economic prospects, we explore the insights of the IMF’s World Economic Outlook 2013 and the World Bank’s analysis of the issues shaping Africa’s economic prospects, looking specifically at the challenges Africa faces, as well as Africa’s promise for 2014…

Africa’s challenges

The World Bank’s Vice President, Makhtar Diop, has called for faster progress in areas such as electricity and food in the vulnerable areas of The Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and says that significantly more energy and agricultural productivity are needed to raise the quality of life for Africans throughout the continent and reduce poverty significantly.

Although Africa has been able to cut poverty on the continent after more than a decade of strong economic growth, the World Bank says that it’s not enough. Says Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa, and lead author of the new Africa’s Pulse report:

While the broad picture emerging from the data is that Africa’s economies have been expanding robustly and that poverty is coming down, the aggregate hides a great deal of diversity in performance, even among Africa’s faster growers.

Devarajan cites the positive examples of Ethiopia and Rwanda who in the second half of the 2000s saw their economies expand at 8-10% (or between 5 and 8% per capita), which resulted in a 1.3 to 1.7% point yearly fall in their national poverty rates.

Diop also urged African governments and their development partners to upgrade the continent’s statistical capacity so that citizens could better measure and monitor their development progress and analyze the reasons for its success and failure, especially in resource-rich countries and fragile states where data gathering and analysis remain weak.

Africa’s promise

Africa’s medium-term growth prospects remain strong and will be supported by a gradually improving world economy, consistently high commodity prices, and more investment in regional infrastructure, trade, and business growth.

Africa’s Pulse suggests that a number of emerging trends on the continent could help to transform its current state of development over the coming years. These include the promise of large revenues from mineral exploitation, rising incomes created by a dramatic expansion of agricultural productivity, the large-scale migration of people from the countryside into Africa’s towns and cities, and a demographic dividend potentially created by Africa’s fast-growing population of young people.

According to Punam Chuhan-Pole, a co-author of the Africa’s Pulse and a Lead Economist in the World Bank’s Africa region:

If properly harnessed to unleash their full potential, these trends hold the promise of more growth, much less poverty, and accelerating shared prosperity for African countries in the foreseeable future.

Between expanding economies and the challenges presented by poverty, do you think Africa can fulfill this promise of prosperity?

David Okwara

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