The greatest development challenge facing Sub-Saharan Africa today is lifting 400 million of its people out of extreme poverty. The continent has abundant land and mineral resources to meet the challenge, but only if land governance can be improved. A new study, Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity, offers a ten-point program to improve land governance by accelerating policy reforms and boosting investments at a cost of US $4.5 billion over 10 years.
My experience as a doctor who practiced actively in this country did not prepare me for the shock I had during the preparation of the Nigeria State Health Investment Project. I had worked for three years in the public sector at the beginning of my career but then spent more than a decade in the private sector. I had not imagined the decay in public infrastructure – leaking roofs, heaps of garbage, broken down equipment, and stock-outs of drugs and disposables for months on end in public health centers. The general morale of frontline health workers was low and some ingenious workers were actually buying their stock of drugs to provide services for patients. Not surprisingly, the utilization of health services was low and the quality of service appalling.
As a World Bank Senior Economist and Statistician, I am responsible for compiling data from various sources to produce the Africa Development Indicators (ADI), an annual report of the most detailed collection of development data on Africa.
Whenever I mention numbers and data and tables, most people’s eyes glaze over and they shut down. But data can tell a mountain of a story, especially for African policymakers charged with developing policies that support development and economic growth. Without data, how would leader’s plan and design policies? How could they do anything without knowing where they are coming from, to where they’re going to?
Here’s more information about the ADI’s, and how the annual data collection not only helps African leaders, but also helps to inform citizens who can then hold them accountable.
Remittances are the money that migrants send back to their home countries to sustain their families. In the case of Africa it is estimated that 120 million people benefited from the US$60 billion sent home by 30 million migrants in 2012. While most of these flows are used for consumption, they could have a greater development impact if a larger portion was saved in banks by recipients and channeled into productive investment such as microenterprise activities.
This link between remittances and financial inclusion was the main topic discussed in a Forum organized by the World Bank in Brussels on May 16th, bringing together representatives of francophone African countries and Diaspora communities with several development partners such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the African Union Commission (AUC), who with European Commission (EC) funding and World Bank implementation, are collaborating to address this issue with concrete action.
What do Iran and Alaska have in common? Well for one thing, both have followed a similar path towards equity by sharing mineral revenues with citizens through the Alaska Permanent Fund and the Iran Citizens Income Scheme. Why aren’t other countries, rich in mineral and hydro carbon wealth on their way to doing the same? This journey can be short and sweet: It would entail direct dividend payments from mineral wealth to citizens to become a reality across Africa and other parts of the world. It’s time to put the mine in mineral revenues.
Marcelo Giugale, World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa, makes the case with enthusiasm for direct cash payments from natural resource revenues to the citizens of a country: a mechanism by which citizens of a nation, share in its wealth earnings while making sure that the earnings keep growing for future generations. Marcelo offers a tantalizing prospect: even a fraction of mineral and hydro carbon revenue as direct dividend payments to citizens would be enough to end poverty! Imagine that.
Africa has mineral revenues and much more that can end poverty. It seems, that whatever the so-called developed world craves, Africa already has: from mineral resources to yet to be discovered deposits of diamonds, oils, rare earth; to agriculture land. Yet, whatever enriches the so-called developed world from Africa seems to not benefit the continent itself. Why is that? And what will need to be done to change it? It is time to transform the discussion on economic growth drivers and development aid by adding into the equation the distribution of mineral revenues urges Shantayanan Devarajan, World Bank’s Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa and until recently for the Africa Region.
The Association of African Universities—AAU for short—held its 13th general conference last week in Libreville, Gabon. Representing the World Bank at this conference, I had a great opportunity to engage with this vibrant university community. A community which is expanding fast as demand for higher education is skyrocketing thanks to Africa’s “youth bulge”, that is, as the share of young people in the population is increasing in many countries. Private universities are mushrooming everywhere.
Next week, I will be joining World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on an historic joint visit to Africa's Great Lakes Region. The aim of the trip is to brainstorm with African leaders solutions to helping the people of the Great Lakes prosper.
This visit is important for two reasons - it highlights a new era of global institutions working together to promote stability, and it signals to the citizens of fragile and conflict affected nations our commitment: we will not leave you behind.
Many countries in today’s world have struggled, or are struggling, through war or political conflict to rebuild themselves and lift their people out of poverty. They are called fragile states, nations with poor health and education, little or no electricity, disorganized or weakened institutions, and in many cases no functioning governments. In Africa, 18 of the 48 countries in the sub Region are considered fragile, six of them so much so that UN, NATO or African Union forces are on the ground helping to keep peace.
- “Artisanal miners are poor exploited human beings who are forced to dig for minerals under unbearable circumstances. They should be liberated.”
- “Artisanal miners are elephant poachers who destroy the environment. They should be evicted.”
- “Artisanal miners are successful small entrepreneurs. They should be supported and stimulated.”
- “Artisanal miners are economically inefficient. They should be replaced by large scale industrial operators.”
- “Artisanal miners are illegal and do not contribute any revenue to the state. They need to be registered and controlled.”
‘What does it take to raise your competitiveness game?’ is the question many African countries will be asking at this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa, to be held in Cape Town on 8-10 May, 2013. Competitive economies create more jobs for their citizens and their economic fundamentals, institutions and policies act in coherence to boost the productivity of industries and new entries to the market. Competitive economies can also attract higher levels of investment, creating opportunity and access for a country’s entrepreneurs to make a difference in global value chains. With average growth rates of more than 5% over the past decade across the continent, a demographic advantage, and a keen sense of ‘can-do’ spirit, African economies are pitching to be recognized as innovative locations.
Still, this year’s Africa Competitiveness Report finds wide regional differences in competitiveness across the continent. This is captured in the findings, such as the placement of South Africa in the top half of the Global Competitiveness Index rankings at 52nd, while Burundi is the lowest ranked at 144th. Ghana and Tanzania, with budding middle classes and growing levels of urbanization, also continue to rank at 103 and 120, respectively. A lag in infrastructure improvements and reforms to strengthen regional markets continues to challenge African economies, and requires focus and attention. At once, competitiveness improvements could be fuelled by the entrepreneurial drive that is sweeping the continent.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, many local journalists suffer attacks, imprisonment or even death for reporting on corruption, public spending or the mismanagement of natural resources. In Africa, at least 41 journalists are spending this World Press Freedom Day behind bars.
While there is a clear recognition by international institutions that corruption and good governance are key to poverty alleviation, there seems to be much less understanding of the importance of an enabling environment, as a complement to training and capacity building, in order for the press to meaningfully contribute to greater accountability and transparency, such as natural resources exploitation.
For example, new oil discoveries in East Africa have the potential to lift millions out of poverty if the profits actually benefit the citizens in that region. The optimism is dashed by the proverbial “resource curse,” that’s plagued the likes of Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea, where poor governance, wealth disparity and poverty persist. The fog of secrecy and opacity surrounding oil exploitation deals has also caused concern.