The AfDB North Africa 2014 report focuses on inclusive growth, providing an overview of the AfDB's activities in the region, along with a summary of the socio-economic situation in each of the five countries covered.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has released its North Africa 2014 annual report, entitled Looking for inclusion. This year's report focuses on the pressing need for inclusive growth and development, as demonstrated by the uprisings experienced in several countries in the region in early 2011.
The report includes a brand new indicator, which measures the extent to which growth may be considered inclusive. The data reveal an important observation: in 2008-2010 (i.e. immediately before the "Arab Spring"), the five countries in the North Africa region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt) posted below-average performance figures.
Tunisia was the highest-ranked country in the region, followed by Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Algeria respectively.
Despite improvements in the North African economies, both in real terms and in comparison with other developing nations, the report reveals deepening inequalities between social groups in two key areas: the labour market and regional variations. Furthermore, these very same inequalities are recognised as the main obstacles to inclusive growth. Genuinely inclusive growth would help to deliver fairer distribution of wealth between age groups, social classes and regions in these countries.
The report also reveals the existence of a two-tier labour market in the region, with a marked rift between the formal and informal sectors. Less than 50% of the working-age population is employed in the formal labour market, and the unemployment rate across the region stands at around 10% – considerably higher than the global average. Furthermore, people in the 15-24 age bracket are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults aged 25 and over. The unemployment rate is especially high among young, educated people and women. Indeed, women are twice as likely to be unemployed as men. The situation among young women (aged 15 to 24) is even worse, with people in this category three times more vulnerable to unemployment than women aged over 24.
In many cases, long-term unemployment leads to permanent withdrawal from the labour market. This, in turn, results in chronic poverty, marginalisation and, as demonstrated by the Arab Spring, social unrest.
A high proportion of North African workers are in unstable employment in the so-called "informal" sector, with no contract or social protection. Only 30% of workers in Morocco, 46% of workers in Tunisia and 50% of workers in Egypt have a contract of employment. Generally speaking, informal-sector workers experience substandard working conditions (compared with the formal sector) and receive extremely low wages, and in some cases no pay whatsoever.
However, the picture is not the same across North Africa. Income levels and other well-being indicators vary markedly by geographical location, including within individual countries. These differences are also reflected in the quality of public services and social welfare provision, as well as in private-sector employment opportunities and public-sector development assistance for the private sector.
The key message of the 2014 report is that the North African countries now have a historic opportunity, as the working-age population is set to continue growing until 2020. Provided that the region is able to sustain an effective labour market and attract sufficient investment, this population growth should help to deliver strong growth.
The AfDB remains one of the region's key partners in its efforts to overcome these challenges. The Bank is currently supporting more than 100 projects in the region, funded by loans and grants totalling US $7 billion.
Vincent Castel, Chief Country Economist, ORNA