In recent years, China’s presence in sub-Saharan Africa has risen rapidly. Many fear that China spells doom for the Kenyan economy. Producers of manufactured goods, for example, face more competition from China in both foreign and domestic markets. Others argue that China will exploit Kenya’s resources and leave it unable to industrialize. If the manufacturing sector fails to take off, it will be harder to move people out of poverty.
A comparison of costs of living across major cities in the world regularly intrigues people. The latest annual report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), for example, points to Singapore as the most expensive city to live in. The cheapest city in the ranking of 133 cities is Lusaka in Zambia, followed by two Indian cities Bangalore and Mumbai.
The World Bank (WB) has set an ambitious goal of securing universal access to formal financial services by 2020. Although 700 million people have signed up for a bank account since 2011, about two billion worldwide remain unbanked. As the WB seeks to expand worldwide financial inclusion, it should look to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) for inspiration.
Why does this matter, and what does it mean for the World Bank (WB), and the Africa Region in particular?
Africa stands at a crossroads. Economic growth has taken root across much of the region. In many countries, exports are booming, foreign investment is on the rise and dependence on aid is declining. Governance reforms are transforming the political landscape. Democracy, transparency and accountability have improved, giving Africa’s citizens a greater voice in decisions that affect their lives.
Back in 2012, the news of Kenya’s oil discovery spread fast. Stock markets roared, politicians gushed and the Twitterati tweeted. Fast forward to today: with $70 off oil prices and at least another four to five years to go until the first commercial production, one cannot help but ask, has Kenyan oil been overrated?
With a tip of the hat to Clint Eastwood, the prospects for Kenya’s oil wealth can be characterised as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Over the past five years, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the World Bank Group have coproduced 20 volumes on various dimensions of development in Africa. The Africa Development Forum (ADF) book series has addressed subjects including the agricultural, demographic, climatic, and environmental challenges facing African countries, as well as the various methods of financing infrastructure, cities, and social safety nets. In-depth research brings to light specific and diverse situations encountered around the continent. Moving beyond the results of such endeavors, the question remains of how to conduct research that can make a pertinent and meaningful contribution to public policy. Two fundamental tools are required: robust, and often times original, data and cutting-edge research. This research must not only be connected to international realities; it must be firmly anchored in African realities and geared toward public policy making.
Most parents in Africa will tell you that their children’s education is the most important investment they can make. Over the past decade, great progress has been made in terms of getting children into school, with countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Rwanda and Zambia recording primary net enrollment of over 90 percent. But across the continent, primary school completion and youth literacy rates remain unacceptably low.
Climate change imposes stark challenges in West and Central Africa, where droughts and floods are already frequent. Vast portions of the region’s populations are poor, dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and unable to prepare and respond adequately to extreme weather events. Weak monitoring and information systems, absence of proper infrastructure, and limited governance capacity render countries in the region unable to manage their climate risks, threatening food and energy security, economic development, ecosystem health, and overall regional stability.