What would it take to transform Africa’s energy sector? This is the question we grappled with in a discussion on Friday with Energy and Finance ministers from across Africa. The discussion was part of a standing-room only event that took place during World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. The discussion could have gone much longer than the scheduled two hours; this is because so many of us feel so strongly about Africa's energy situation.
There is a jobs cow waiting to be milked in Africa. It is agriculture and agri-business.
In its initial condition, Africa’s agriculture bears a striking resemblance to its telecom sector in the late 1990s. A decade on, a combination of right policies and strengthened regulatory framework has seen the sector open up to free enterprise, attracting about $60 billion in private investments and leading to today’s ICT boom: 450 million mobile phones in Africa, which is more mobile phones than Canada, Mexico and the USA combined.
As we head into Spring Meetings in Washington, Sierra Leone is very much in my thoughts, because it is a country that faces many serious challenges—especially those relating to the survival of women and children—and because I’ve just returned from there, and have seen firsthand some of the efforts that are being made to turn this situation around.
This was an opportunity to look at human development in Sierra Leone through the lens of our
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.
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.
As prominent advocates for anti-malaria efforts in Africa cautioned at the United Nations yesterday, recent successes against malaria—however significant—are still fragile. Both the malaria parasite and the mosquitoes that carry it can develop resistance, to drugs as well as to insecticides, and therefore the fight against malaria must gain rather than lose momentum.
“The British army surgeon who in 1897 helped discover that malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes predicted it would be eliminated in two years, but the parasite has remained a silent and stealthy killer,” said World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick, noting that the preventable and curable disease continues to have a debilitating effect on many African economies.
Zoellick acknowledged the tremendous job that Ray Chambers, the UN Special Envoy for Malaria, had done to raise money for anti-malaria efforts, in conjunction with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. Anti-malaria funding, which stood at just $175 million in 2005, is $1.6 billion today thanks to their efforts and many countries such as Rwanda and Zambia have made dramatic progress in recent years.
Africa's Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation
Yesterday in New York I attended a discussion on infrastructure in Africa. As co-author of the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, I've been talking with people for years about the importance of reliable infrastructure for economic and social activity in Africa. Today we're talking about how infrastructure can help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The core of the MDGs is poverty reduction and improved human development, but how can those goals be met without basic infrastructure to create economic opportunities and support public service delivery? This is a critical question when you think about the facts that 30 Sub-Saharan countries have a power supply crisis, their road freight moves as fast as a horse-drawn cart, and less than 5 percent of agricultural land is irrigated. Although Africa’s infrastructure needs may look daunting, countries like China have shown that it is possible to deliver on the requisite scale.
This morning, 69 million children would not have gone to school around the world. And of those who did, many did not learn what they should have. It is a good thing that education has such energetic champions as Queen Rania of Jordan and Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, both of whom made strong statements today in New York in support of universal access to good-quality education.
“I have one goal—to advocate that every child receives a quality education,” said Queen Rania, who is the co-founder and co-chair of 1Goal , a campaign that was founded with the objective of ensuring that education for all would be a lasting impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.