The Next 50 Years: “The Africa We Want”

The theme for this year’s Annual Meetings is The Next 50 Years: “The Africa We Want”. It reflects a vision for Africa based on aspirations of African countries and their people, articulated in “Agenda 2063 – the Future We Want for Africa” as an “integrated, people-centered, prosperous Africa, at peace with itself”. The Agenda 2063 also enhances the ideals of Pan-Africanism.

Given the importance of “Africa at peace with itself” for reaching “The Africa We Want”, the Annual Meeting also allows for discussion of the recently launched report Ending Conflict & Building Peace in Africa: A Call to Action prepared by the AfDB’s High Level Panel on Fragile States. It was launched at the 22nd African Union Summit in January 2014 by the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka.

The Annual Meetings aim to reflect on the aspirations of the African people, which have risen to high levels in recent years as Africa’s economies expand and affluence begins to reach some segments of the populations. Nevertheless, for the majority of the people these aspirations are yet to be met. In our view, four critical – and closely inter-related – issues need to be addressed to achieve them.

First, strategic policy leadership will be crucial; second, regional integration is a pre-requisite for integrated Africa; third, generating productive jobs for Africa’s large population, including youth and women, is indispensable for a people-centered, prosperous Africa and will help ensure stability; and fourth, containing conflict and fragility will allow resources to be devoted to helping spearhead Africa’s transformation. This delineation of issues is meant to provide the Governors topics and linkages among them to deliberate upon and arrive at specific “take-away” messages on which the governments and the Bank can act.

Agenda 2063 and Aspirations of the African People

To achieve its potential, Africa’s development trajectory over the next 50 years must be firmly anchored in the aspirations of its people – women and men, young and old, rural and urban populations of all age groups. Although the Agenda 2063 document has been discussed by groups from different African countries and backgrounds, stakeholders expressed strikingly similar aspirations for their future and for their continent.

  • A prosperous continent, based on inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth;
  • An integrated continent – based on Pan-Africanism;
  • A continent characterized by good governance, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law;
  • A peaceful and secure continent, with strong cultural identity, values and ethics;
  • A strong and influential global partner.

All the points above touch on the Bank’s key pillars, as envisioned in the Ten-Year Strategy, notably its focus on inclusive growth and the transition to green growth. Integration is a long-standing pillar of the Bank’s work and much has been done in the past decade to enhance it, including through the provision of support to regional infrastructure. Governance is central to the Bank’s activities, including strengthening institutions to ensure peace and sustained development, and importantly to prevent countries from sinking into cycles of fragility, which breed poverty and regional instability.

The vision of Agenda 2063 hinges on Africa reaching strong, sustained and inclusive growth. If Africa maintains its current economic performance, its output per capita will increase steadily in the next 50 years. By that time, most African countries will attain upper middle income status. Africa would then become a global growth pole in its own right. Youth empowerment and gender equality could serve as drivers of change behind Agenda 2063.

The Next 50 Years – Drivers of Change and Mega-Trends

To achieve the Agenda 2063, African countries will need to be aware of emerging changes and trends and seize opportunities. In looking at the next 50 years, the Bank has identified the following key drivers of change:

  • Globalization and changing structure of global markets, with expanding middle class and markedly rising importance of developing countries in global trade.
  • New technologies and innovation, especially in health, agriculture and energy.
  • Changing rules governing global trade and finance, including the role of aid.
  • Physical environment – examples include climate change; land and water scarcity; pervasive infrastructure deficit.
  • Human resources – delayed demographic transition, gender dividend, skills development, and the continued heavy burden of HIV.
  • Private sector development and democratization.

These changes are likely to bring about accelerated urbanization, rising migration, and increased productivity of agriculture, while the role of natural resources will remain prominent. Structural transformation is multifaceted and will demand considerable effort from African leaders and their people. Ultimately, diligence and dedication will be compensated by strong, sustained and inclusive growth in decades to come.

Key Issues

The vision of Africa as “integrated, people-centered, prosperous continent, at peace with itself” needs strategic policy leadership, regional integration, creation of productive jobs and reduced conflict and fragility.

Strategic Policy Leadership

The success of Africa’s transformation and strong growth in the next 50 years require strategic policy leadership at all levels and segments of the society, supported by well-functioning institutions and an enabling business environment. Strategic policy leadership for good policy-making is needed at the national, regional and global levels as well as in the government, business and civil society spheres – all working in liaison towards collective goals. While Africa can draw on good practices from other developing regions, it also has – and increasingly so -- its own good policies to share with others. Examples include the effective response to the economic crisis, where Africa continued with overall prudent macroeconomic stance and resisted protectionist tendencies. In recent years, important strides were also made in improving the business environment, with some African countries now ranking among the most dynamic reformers. This policy momentum needs to continue.

Achieving Africa’s potential is likely to be determined by:

  • The ability of policy-makers to maintain focus on longer-term socio-economic results in the presence of competing short-term demands, and their willingness to pursue pragmatic and evidence-based policies,
  • The ability to encourage cooperation across borders, and
  • Importantly, their commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability.

African policy-makers need to ensure that the policies adopted are strategic and advance the Agenda 2063

Regional Integration

Regional integration is a multifaceted and evolving process, comprising movements of goods, capital as well as people, talent and ideas. Strategic policy leadership is critical for reaching the Agenda 2063 vision of an integrated continent. By reducing fragmentation and spatial exclusion, integration helps Africa realize its potential for sustainable and inclusive growth. It enables the continent to make the most out of globalization, while mitigating some of its risks.

While progress has been made in some countries and regions, overall intra-African trade is low compared with other world regions. Yet intra-African trade with fast-growing economies can raise resilience of African countries against global shocks by supporting economies of scale and encouraging regional diversification. Restrictions affecting access to more vibrant African labour markets should be also removed to support free movement of labour.

Productive Employment and Opportunities

The Vision of Agenda 2063 of a “people-centered, prosperous continent” calls for the creation of jobs and employment opportunities for Africa’s growing and youthful population. An important aspiration of many African countries for today and the future is therefore the creation of productive employment. In this regard, the most telling transformation for Africa would entail the creation of a vast number of productive jobs, especially in the private sector.

Innovation, entrepreneurship and enhancement of people’s skills will be needed to raise the competitiveness of Africa’s economies. Moreover, developing human capital, relaxing migration laws and encouraging talent circulation are means to unleashing the potential of Africa’s population. Further, greater education and employment opportunities for youth and women would raise Africa’s labour productivity, widen the tax base and promote innovation and competitiveness in business. A fundamental transformation in the productivity of agriculture would allow the rural populations to enjoy a many-fold increase in incomes while also making farms—large and small—profitable.

Africa would also benefit from greater participation in global and regional value chains with higher value added goods. Many African countries are, however, only starting to gain access to global and regional value chains beyond natural resource exports. Still some African countries have made significant strides in integrating in the global value chains, especially in light manufacturing, and provide examples of good practices.

Conflict and Fragility

Africa as a “continent, at peace with itself” is key part of the Agenda 2063 vision. Conflict and fragility are major constraints for Africa’s development. About one third of African states, home to more than 200 million people, are considered to be in a state of relative socio-economic fragility. In Africa’s context, fragility is not a static condition, but a dynamic continuum.

To reduce conflict and fragility, the High Level Panel on Fragile States in Africa was established, led by Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf. The High Level Panel reviewed sources of fragility in Africa and found the challenges of addressing fragility and conflict in Africa to be two-fold. The first relates to the importance of mounting effective policy responses to the most disruptive changes facing the continent (e.g., youth unemployment, urbanization, poverty and inequality). The second is creating resilient states and societies able to manage these pressures and to prevent conflict.

As fragility is different from one place to another and no single condition fully describes fragility everywhere, there is no single remedy for it. In addition to state-building, overcoming fragility entails drawing on resilience of African societies, including the private sector and the civil society organizations (CSOs), and on continental and regional mechanisms and processes. Many of the drivers of conflict in Africa are regional in nature and call for regional solutions. For example, in some countries (e.g., Sudan and South Sudan), cooperation on cross-border natural resources management and monitoring could go a long way towards shared peace and regional prosperity.

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