As I write these lines, I am sitting in an airplane returning from my first mission in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. My mission was for the education sector, and included visiting a few lower secondary public schools. As I listen to the pilot’s welcoming message, I find myself thinking about the children I met at the schools, and trying to assess the odds of their becoming pilots, engineers or scientists.
The challenges faced by small farmers are similar across the developing world – pests, diseases and climate change. Yet in Africa the challenges are even greater. If farmers are to survive at current rates (let alone grow), they need to have access to high-yielding seeds, effective fertilizers and irrigation technologies. These issues threaten the region’s ability to feed itself and make business-growth and export markets especially difficult to reach. Other factors include the rise in global food prices and export subsidies for exporters in the developed economies, which leave African farmers struggling to price competitively.
“City plans must fit the people, not the other way round.” Jane Jacobs, journalist and urban studies author
Ibadan, the third largest metropolitan area in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano, has organically grown from around 60,000 inhabitants in the early 1800’s to more than three million today, and is projected to reach 5.6 million by 2033. The city’s urban footprint continues to sprawl due to weak land use planning that leads to the proliferation of informal settlements in flood prone areas.
Earlier this week we released the 14th edition of the Kenya Economic Update, our bi-annually published report which assesses the state of Kenya’s economy. Kenya remains one of the bright spots in the region. With economic growth rates sustained at above 5%, Kenya has outperformed the Sub-Sahara Africa regional average for eight consecutive years. Our macroeconomic team projects that gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Kenya will increase to 5.9% in 2016 and could accelerate to 6.1% by 2018. Both Kenya’s current performance and the positive medium-term outlook are in sharp contrast to the regional growth deceleration—average per capita incomes in the Sub-Saharan Africa will decline —and the global economic slowdown.
On January 22, 2012 at 6:00 am in the morning, Ethiopians living in the Efoyta Market neighborhood in Addis Ababa woke up to a burning five-story building. More than 13 hours later, the fire had killed two people, destroyed 65,000 square miles including several homes and businesses, and produced damages amounting to ETB 20 million ($1 million), a huge amount in a country where nearly 30% of the population live on less than $1.90 a day.
From a young age we are taught that fires are dangerous and to be avoided. Yet, in many parts of the world, especially in Africa, fire is a well-known phenomenon. Our recent study titled Africa: the Fire Continent—commissioned under the TerrAfrica partnership—shows that many plant species and ecosystems in Africa benefit from fire and, indeed, need fire to remain healthy. It suggests that the deliberate use of fire must be an integral part of landscape management tools to preserve the health of Africa’s drylands.
Climate change and food insecurity could shape Africa’s future.
I already see evidence of this during my travels across Sub-Saharan Africa, where high levels of poverty, highly variable and unpredictable weather, limited livelihood options, weak infrastructure, insufficient access to productive resources, and scarce safety nets all combine to make Africans even more vulnerable to climate risks.
There has been an increase in attention on Africa’s changing population. Academics, development organizations and the media (among others, BBC, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Economist) have highlighted Africa’s late demographic transition – the population is young and will remain so for a long time, as fertility rates are not falling there at the same rate as they have fallen in the rest of the world.
The wealthy can borrow money to finance their investment needs because bankers trust them. Those who are less well off, and who need loans the most, do not have this access and must call upon the solidarity of their family and community to finance their investments. The same logic can be used at the country level. High income countries borrow, while many poor African countries have a limited access to international capital markets. In recent years, only one fourth of sub-Saharan African countries were able to issue international bonds—and do not have any other alternative but to solicit international aid.
“The mentality of youth in Senegal is changing. These days, young Senegalese aren’t waiting for job opportunities to fall from the sky. They are actively working towards creating them for themselves, and for other youth.” These words, spoken by 30 year old Thierno Niang, a social entrepreneur and co-founder of Rev’evolution, a youth run, self-funded start up incubator, struck a chord with me. Thierno and I were discussing his role as a panel moderator for the Youth Forum on Employment, Training, and Inclusion: A Knowledge-Sharing Event for Sub-Saharan Africa, the first ever youth event of its kind organized by the World Bank office in Senegal.