This blog was first published on September 15, 2015 by Alexandre Marc, Chief Specialist for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence at the World Bank and author of the recently published book, “The Challenge of Stability and Security in West Africa. It is being re-posted this week to highlight the book’s launch event in Europe, at the Agence Française de Développement in Paris.
A few months ago, as I was walking through the streets of Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau, I reflected on what had happened to this country over the last 20 years. It had gone through a number of coups and a civil war; its economy had barely been diversified; electricity and water access was still a major issue. There was the city of Bissau on one side, where a semblance of services where provided, and the rest of the country on the other.
Will Africa benefit economically from its current fertility transition? Between 1990 and 2010, Africa’s birth rate fell from 6.2 to 4.9 births per woman. Such a decline was expected to enhance the region’s schooling and development prospects, by creating a historical opportunity for a ‘demographic dividend.’ In theory, dividends result from a temporary reduction in age-dependency ratios as birth rates fall. In practice however, dividends and the conditions under which they emerge are hard to pin down.
Most of Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) economies are dominated by the agriculture sector. On average, agriculture accounts for 32% of gross domestic product and employs 65% of the labor force. In some countries, it contributes over 80% of trade in value and more than 50% of raw materials to industries.
L’ambiance est au renouveau et à l’optimisme sur le plus jeune des continents. Cela se voit à Addis Abeba, où le premier système de métro d’Afrique subsaharienne vient d’être inauguré. Cela se ressent en Côte d’Ivoire, où de jeunes Ivoiriens se préparent avec impatience à effectuer leur premier stage rémunéré dans la compagnie d’électricité nationale. Cela s’entend sur les ondes au Nigéria, où des paysans partagent des conseils pratiques en matière d’agriculture sur leur première radio communautaire rurale.
As Africa faces the potential for a demographic dividend, certain facts about Africa’s population offer cause for both excitement and concern.
Sub-Saharan Africa is making significant economic and development strides. Yet, natural disasters, combined with the effects of climate change, rapid urbanization, and conflict situations are threatening these gains, keeping vulnerable and poor communities in a chronic cycle of poverty:
- 425 million people who live in Africa’s drylands are highly exposed to climate shocks, and this number is set to grow by at least 50% by 2030. We cannot fully quantify the human cost, but Kenya alone suffered losses of $12 billion in the 2008 to 2011 drought. Official development assistance (ODA) in humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa after the 2011 drought was $4 billion, 10% of all aid to Africa.
- Africa’s coastal cities are engines of growth, but are highly vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise. In the last three years, major floods have hit cities such as Maputo, Dakar, Lagos and Douala. Like droughts, floods won’t go away. Along with periods of extreme heat, strong winds and coastal storms, they are likely to become more frequent.
- Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, from March 2014, was the most widespread, and reached epidemic proportions. The poor bore the brunt, lost their jobs and incomes, had difficulty accessing medical services and suffered psycho-social trauma. On a macro-level, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are estimated to lose over $1.6 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015.
- Conflicts and disasters often reinforce each other to worsen negative development impacts and increase human suffering. From 2005 to2009, more than 50% of people affected by disasters lived in fragile and conflict-affected states (globally). Fourteen out of the 20 most conflict-affected states are in Africa.
Si l’on en croit l’actualité de la recherche, il y a lieu d’être optimiste en ce qui concerne la situation de la démographie et du développement en Afrique. Bien que les taux de croissance de la population resteront élevés pendant encore un certain temps, on voit se profiler à l’horizon une tendance plus profonde : celle d’un déclin généralisé de la fécondité. Ces signaux, conjugués à l’amorce de changements dans l’économie, laissent présager un tournant positif pour l’Afrique. Comme tous ceux qui ont grandi à Calcutta, j’ai été nourri au poème bengali Africa de Rabindranath Tagore : à propos des forces du colonialisme, l’écrivain évoque la « cupidité barbare de la civilisation » qui réprime le potentiel dont regorge ce continent. Aujourd’hui, l’Afrique a rendez-vous avec son histoire.