The year 2015 marked the conclusion of the Millenni-um Development Goals (MDGs) and the adoption of a new global development agenda. This is an opportune moment for African countries to reflect on their devel-opment record, to assess what has worked well and where we can do better on eradicating poverty.
The 2015 Edition of the African Development Report (ADR) is an important contribution to that reflection. It examines the nexus between growth, poverty and inequality, drawing on decades of experience across the continent. It explores the complex interplay of factors that have inhibited the transmission of Africa’s recent strong growth performance into poverty reduction.
It shows that growth has been concentrated in sectors that make little impact on the incomes and welfare of the poor. The sectors with the greatest potential to transform the structure of African economies – namely, agriculture and industry – have not attracted the levels of investment they need. Inequality along geographical, social and gender lines has prevented many Africans from enjoying the benefits of growth. Finally, extreme dependency on commodity exports, high fertility rates, and social and political fragilities all pose significant challenges for poverty reduction.
I firmly believe that development is about delivering real improvements in living conditions right across society. This analysis shows that widespread inequality is limiting both growth and poverty reduction across Africa. These income disparities have remained persistently high over decades, leaving Africa one of the world’s most unequal regions. Income inequality is also mirrored in unequal access to resources and opportunities between rural and urban residents, and between women and men.
Women’s participation in economic, political and social development is being held back by unequal access to resources and opportunities and unacceptable levels of interpersonal violence. This causes both direct harm to women and their children, and wider costs to African economies. Africa owes its women and girls a better deal. We need targeted interventions to raise women’s economic status and to deter aggression.
Another group of Africans that has remained widely excluded from recent economic progress is young people. The lack of gainful employment for young Africans is one of the most critical policy challenges of our time. It needs to be addressed through measures that stimulate labour markets, while encouraging long-term declines in fertility.
It is clear from this analysis that Africa’s structural trans-formation remains at an early stage. It also appears to be following a different pathway from that seen in other parts of the developing world, particularly Asia. While labour is moving out of agriculture and rural areas, it is not, for the most part, going into manufacturing. In-stead, urban migrants are being absorbed into informal activities that offer little prospect of advancement. If Africa is to industrialise, it has to improve its production capabilities as well as the productivity of its human and physical capital. This requires significant investment in infrastructure, especially in energy, to fuel economic activity, and in agricultural technology to support agri-culture-based industrialisation.
For our part, the African Development Bank has defined a number of operational priorities that will guide our efforts in the coming years. In particular, I have set the Bank five key objectives – “The High Five” – defined as:
(i) Feeding Africa through improved agriculture and agro-industrial development; (ii) Powering and lighting African economies; (iii) Promoting regional integration and trade; (iv) Industrialising Africa through strong support to the private sector; and, (v) Improving the quality of life of Africans, especially the poor, women and young people. To achieve lasting change for Africans, we need to achieve profound transformation of Africa’s economy and unlock the potential of its citizens. This report helps tell us how to achieve that.
Dr. Adesina, Akinwumi Ayodeji
President, African Development Bank Group