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.
Growing up in India, mosquito nets were an essential part of life. I slept under them as a child in Bangalore, with their ropes tied to bedposts, doors, closets, window grills—anything that would offer support at the right height. It was like pitching a tent every night, and the occasional dramatic collapse would result in much helpless laughter. Later, going to college on the banks of the slow-flowing Koovam river in Madras (now Chennai), I tucked myself under a net in my dormitory at about 6 p.m. to avoid the twilight assault of mosquitos from the water. In fact, particularly after a bad attack of malaria when I was a child, a lot of my life was lived perforce under a mosquito net, until electric repellent gadgets reached the market and nets somewhat lost their popularity.
Recently, sitting in Halima Ibrahim’s house in Majengo, a neighborhood in the coastal city of Mombasa, and talking about the new mosquito nets her family had just received from the Kenyan government, I felt instantly at home in her tiny living room. It was packed from corner to corner with family and friends, all brimming with opinions about nets old and new. Everybody talked about malaria and what a problem the disease was in the community. The nets that had just been distributed to them free of cost would make a huge difference, they said, protecting them from being bitten by mosquitos, and saving them considerable expense. Many of the families on the street simply could not afford to buy durable and effective nets at the prices they commanded in the local market.
Ninety minutes after leaving Nairobi, UN flight 13W banks sharply over the Somali coastline in a series of steep turns that line it up for final approach into Mogadishu airport. The sharp turns are standard security measures to minimize exposure to fire from would-be attackers on the ground. Out of the starboard window, a number of small boats cut a slow, languid path through the ocean, while closer to the airport, large merchant ships sit anchored just off the end of the runway waiting to be unloaded in the nearby port which is the city’s economic lifeline. As we land, the tarmac shimmers in the 100 degree heat that now envelopes the city.
We’ve come to Mogadishu to present the findings of a new Bank study called The Pirates of Somalia: Ending the Threat: Rebuilding a Nation to senior ministers from the Somali government. The report concludes that Somalia cannot ‘buy’ its way out of piracy, and neither can the international community rely solely on its navies and law enforcement agencies to defeat the pirates, whether at sea or on land. The solution to Somali piracy is first and foremost political.
In a fresh look at ending piracy off the Horn of Africa, the Bank suggests that a sustained solution to ending piracy will only come with the recreation of a viable Somali state that can deliver essential health, education, nutrition, and other services throughout the entire country, especially in those areas where piracy flourishes.
|Makhtar Diop with Malien Finance Minister Tiéna Coulibaly|
Here in Mali, as French and Malian troops pursue jihadist groups into the countryside along the country’s borders, the talk everywhere is of “la feuille de route,” a political roadmap that will take this Sahelian country from its triple crises of 2012 on a measured transition towards new elections and a lasting recovery.
Erratic and sporadic water supply, clogged drains, sickened children and unhealthy lives – these are the everyday challenges Janet Adu faces, living in Turlako, a suburb of Accra. Her story is captured in this video and is a vivid reminder that poor sanitation in Ghana accounts for 70 percent of out-patient attendance and 25% of under-five mortality for children. With Ghana’s cities growing at an unprecedented 3.2 percent annually, living conditions for the urban poor like Janet Adu are deteriorating rapidly.