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Can Africa trade with Africa?

Obiageli Ezekwesili's picture

Obiageli Ezekwesili chairs the seminar: Can Africa Trade with Africa? (Photo: Arne Hoel, The World Bank)

I chaired a very lively seminar on Friday afternoon that focused on the question, “Can Africa Trade with Africa?”  The answer was a resounding yes. 

Today, there is strong consensus among African leaders that regional integration is indispensable to unlock economies of scale and sharpen competitiveness. And promoting intra-African trade has emerged as a top priority, in recognition that the African market of one billion consumers can be a powerful engine for growth and employment.

Yet despite the introduction of free trade areas, customs unions, and common markets within the Region, the level of intra-African trade remains among the lowest in the world -- only about 10% of African trade is within the continent, compared to about 40% in North America and about 60% in Western Europe.

Still waiting for that new road to come your way?

Jan Walliser's picture

Anyone who has ever been to the Central African Republic (CAR) knows that the country has huge infrastructure needs after years of internal turmoil and strife. But when you look up how much of the government’s investment budget actually was implemented and financed infrastructure development in 2009 for instance, you find a stunningly low execution rate of 5 percent.

Mapping the development aid landscape: www.aidflows.org

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

Aidflows shows the total volume of aid coming from OECD members and the total being received by developing countries.

As we heard last month during the MDG Summit at the United Nations, progress has been made but much work remains if we are to come close to halving poverty or reaching other targets we all agreed to in 2000. These issues are very much at the center of the Bank-IMF Annual Meetings this week in Washington.


Making development aid more accountable, transparent and effective is at the heart of this week’s discussions. New partnerships and players are emerging. Donor and client governments, along with their constituents, are demanding measurable results.  That said, it is challenging to measure aid when there are multiple channels and types of assistance, from bilateral to multilateral, from loans to trust funds, and the data generated is not always presented in a comparable way.

From goals to achievements

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's picture

Almost two thirds of developing countries reached gender parity at the primary school level by 2005. Maternal mortality rates have dropped by a third. As many as 76 developing nations are on track to reach the goal of access to safe drinking water. 

The statistics tell us there is a clear path to achieving the goals.  So in New York, the focus should be on action and the next concrete steps to turning the goals from paper targets to reality. Given a decade has passed, the time for just more talk has also passed. 

Aid effectiveness = working together

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture


 

It’s been 10 years since the World Bank signed on to the Millennium Development Goals. At the time, I managed the Bank's HIPC initiative, providing debt relief for the most heavily indebted countries, and I remember the hope we all felt.  I am now responsible for IDA—the World Bank’s fund for 79 of the poorest countries, for whom the MDGs are critical, and I can say that our commitment to these goals remains as strong today, if not stronger. 

We have made considerable progress on many of the goals. Growth over the past decade has contributed to reductions in extreme poverty.  In 1990, over 40 percent of the population in developing countries lived on less than $1.25 per day.  By 2005, that share fell to roughly 25 percent and is expected to fall to 15 percent by 2015, more than meeting the goal to halve extreme poverty. 

Words are not enough this week in New York

Tamar Manuelyan Atinc's picture

As the global summit gets off and running in New York to look at progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, we have a great deal to celebrate. At the same time, we have some big challenges ahead in order to realize the promise of the goals: a world that overcomes poverty and hunger, where all citizens have access to opportunity and hope.

On the celebration side: 30 years ago, 52 percent of people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty; by 2005, that share had been cut by more than half. In Africa before the triple blow of the food, fuel and financial crises in 2008, primary school enrollment rates were rising faster than in any other continent, and child mortality rates had fallen by 25 percent in about 13 countries in just 4 years.
 

World Bank reforming to meet new challenges

Angie Gentile's picture

October 6, 2009 - Istanbul, Turkey. World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings 2009. Opening plenary session.

The World Bank is pursuing an ambitious program of reform to enable the institution to become more efficient and effective while also gaining more legitimacy among the developing countries that it serves, Bank President Robert Zoellick said today.

In a speech at the start of the World Bank-IMF annual meetings, Zoellick said the World Bank’s reforms would focus on improving development effectiveness, promoting accountability and good governance, and continuing to increase cost efficiency.

“To serve the changing global economy, the world needs agile, nimble, competent, and accountable institutions,” Zoellick told the meeting of the Board of Governors of the World Bank Group. “The World Bank Group will improve its legitimacy, efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability, and further expand its cooperation with the UN, the IMF, the other Multilateral Development Banks, donors, civil society, and foundations which have become increasingly important development actors.”

Africa’s infrastructure: closing the 'efficiency gap'

Angie Gentile's picture

Rural water pump near Ulundi, South Africa. Photo: Trevor Samson/World Bank African countries lag behind their developing country counterparts on infrastructure, and the gaps are only widening over time. One of today’s keynote panels took a deep look at ways to close that gap.

Instead of defaulting to a call for more money, panelists talked about what’s impeding effective use of funds, both public and private, that are made available for infrastructure development on the continent.

To put the conversation into context, here are a few key stats:

  • Africa needs $93 billion a year to catch up with its huge infrastructure backlog over the next decade—an amount that represents more than 35 percent of GDP for fragile states.
  • Current spending on African infrastructure is higher than previously thought, at $45 billion.
  • An estimated cost savings of $17 billion—the so-called “efficiency gap”—could be achieved if existing resources were used more efficiently.

Archbishop Ndungane: ‘We should be intentional about what CSOs are saying’

Angie Gentile's picture

Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, Istanbul. Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World BankYesterday I caught up with the stately Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, who is attending the Civil Society Forum here in Istanbul. The Archbishop carved out some time to meet before heading off to head a CSO Townhall meeting featuring Bank President Zoellick and IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn.

Archbishop Ndungane is the founder and president of African Monitor, an independent pan-African nonprofit whose main objective is to monitor aid flows, what African governments do with the money, and what impact it has.

 African Monitor holds poverty hearings through which they seek to magnify voices. “We pride ourselves in having the confidence of people on the ground—the voice of people—and taking those voices to the corridors of power,” the Archbishop told me.

Archbishop Ndungane talked about linking up the creative and innovative minds of CSOs with the World Bank on today’s key issues—hunger, climate change, financial crisis. He emphasized the need to develop mechanisms for translating ideas into action.

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