The Rockefeller Foundation, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa convened in December 2014 at the Africa Forum on Inclusive Economies, a Pan African convening aimed at bringing together key thought leaders and policy makers to closely interrogate and propel forward, thinking around the theme of advancing inclusive economies. The convening aimed to focus new ideas and narratives towards the advancement of an inclusive economies approach with key African institutions and influencers and to provide a platform to further enhance thinking and critical debate on the issue of inclusive economies. Reports, videos and a blog from the convening can be found on the website.
Health equity in economic and trade policies
Africa is still held captive by colonial borders and has failed to collectively leverage benefit-sharing agreements that result from multinationals’ commercial pursuit of indigenous knowledge, said speakers at the Africa Intellectual Property (IP) Forum, held in South Africa in February 2013. The issue of applying intellectual property rights to indigenous knowledge, in order to protect holders of this knowledge from exploitation while at the same time leveraging it for development was a vibrant thread of debate throughout the conference, which was themed ‘Intellectual property and economic growth in Africa’. Opening speaker Carlos Correa from the South Centre recommended flexibility in drawing up national IP policies. He told delegates that historical evidence has shown little or no support for the view that intellectual monopoly is an effective method of increasing innovation. Other speakers warned of the threat of biopiracy in Africa, and highlighted the role of academic researchers in contemporary biopiracy, who function as intermediaries between the commons (public cultural knowledge) and pharmaceutical companies looking for patents. A number of African countries have already adopted IP policies and plans, namely Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles and Zambia.
The idea that Africans have never had it so good is rapidly becoming economic orthodoxy. This article comments that foreign investors, media and politicians from William Hague to Jacob Zuma have championed a narrative usually summed up in two words: "Africa rising". However the author asserts that the majority of Africans themselves feel that the picture is far less rosy, complaining that the continent's much vaunted economic growth is failing to trickle down to their daily lives, according to the biggest survey of its kind. "After a decade of growth in Africa, little change in poverty at the grassroots," is the title of a report by the Afrobarometer research project, covered in the article which questioned 51,605 respondents in 34 countries from October 2011 to June this year. He reports critics who have warned that the boom is benefiting only a narrow elite while leaving the poor and jobless behind, exacerbating inequality and potentially sowing seeds of unrest. The wave of "Afro-optimism" should be qualified, they argue.
Even though Africa’s mineral resources are fuelling growth and development in many industrialised and emerging economies of the world, Africa still remains poor, under-developed and dependent on external funding, according to Jean Noel Francois of the African Union’s Department of Trade and Industry. He was speaking at the opening of the second conference of African Ministers responsible for mineral resources and development held from 12-16 December 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mr Francois said the 21st century’s commodity boom has alerted emerging global players to link mineral resource exploitation to infrastructure development, but Africa has yet to seize the opportunity to extract better benefits from its mineral resources to promote broad-based and integrated growth and economic development. Another presenter, Stephen Karinga, expressed frustration that Africa has not benefitted from the dramatic increase in prices for minerals since 2003 due to a number of structural weaknesses in its mineral sector. According to Karingi, in 2010, net profits for the top 40 global mining companies grew by 156% to US$110 billion, prompting countries like Australia and India to increase taxes on windfall earnings, yet Africa has been hesitant to do the same for fear of driving away mining companies.
Sub-Saharan Africa needs to double its infrastructure spending to US$93 billion a year, 15% of regional output, to drag its road, water and power networks into the 21st century. Research compiled by the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA) identified the continent's woeful electricity grids as its most pressing challenge, with 30 countries facing regular blackouts and high premiums for emergency power. Despite the gulf between its target figure and the $45 billion spent now, the report said governments could narrow the funding gap to $31 billion by making $17 billion in relatively simple efficiency gains, such as making more electricity users pay their bills. The report added that infrastructure improvements to date, mainly in telecommunications, had accounted for more than half of the rapid growth rates of recent years on the poorest continent. But frequent blackouts and poor roads still cause headaches and unnecessary costs for business and trade. In most African countries, particularly the lower-income countries, infrastructure emerges as a major constraint on doing business, depressing productivity by about 40%.
According to this report, Africa’s economic outlook is positive in some respects, as the continent is home to seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with 70% of Africa’s population living in countries that have averaged economic growth rates in excess of 4% over the past decade. However, the report also records that most countries are not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, flagging slow progress in areas such as child nutrition, child survival, maternal health, and education. The need for equitable growth is all the more critical, the report states, because of Africa’s profound demographic shift towards youth, as well as high levels of population growth. It calls for a greater focus by policymakers on jobs, justice and equity to ensure sustainable, shared growth that benefits all Africans. Failure to generate equitable growth could result in rising levels of youth unemployment, social dislocation and hunger. Africa’s governments and development partners must urgently draw up plans for a big push towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, the report says.
The US may push Africa to accept genetically modified (GM) food now that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has ruled the EU broke rules by barring GM foods and seeds, however, Africans vowed yesterday to resist.
Africa’s 'Blue world' is made of vast lakes and rivers and an extensive ocean resource base. The Blue Economy can play a major role in Africa’s structural transformation, sustainable economic progress, and social development. The largest sectors of the current African aquatic and ocean based economy are fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transport, ports, coastal mining, and energy. This Policy Handbook, offers a step by step guide to help African member States to better mainstream the Blue Economy into their national development plans, strategies, policies and laws. The Blue Economy approach is premised in the sustainable use, management and conservation of aquatic and marine ecosystems and associated resources.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) under the theme: "China-Africa Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development" was held on 4-5 December in Johannesburg, South Africa. This was the first time that a leaders’ summit level of FOCAC is held in Africa. The Summit which also celebrated the 15th anniversary of the partnership was co-chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma. The FOCAC was established fifteen years ago with its first Ministerial Forum held in Beijing in 2000. With six Ministerial Meetings and two at Summit level already organised, FOCAC has evolved over the years to become a prominent example of South-South cooperation. In the two-day event, Chinese President Xi Jinping and over 50 African leaders gathered in South Africa to discuss together the blueprints of cooperation and show to the world the power of solidarity among developing countries. To build China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership, the conference was informed that China will implement ten cooperation plans with Africa in the next three years. Guided by the principle of government guidance, businesses being the major actors, market operation and win-win cooperation, these plans aim at addressing three bottleneck issues holding back Africa’s development, namely, inadequate infrastructure, lack of professional and skilled personnel, and funding shortage, accelerating Africa’s industrialization and agricultural modernization, and achieving sustainable self-development.
At a panel discussion on Africa-EU relations organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on 8 July 2009, participants discussed four scenarios for ongoing economic partnership agreements in West Africa, ranging from a full liberalisation agreement on all trade in goods and services, to no agreement whatsoever. While European Commission representatives favoured full liberalisation, regional stakeholders called for a partial, phased liberalisation, covering only trade in goods. This approach would provide greater flexibility for national and regional trade policy, protect local agricultural and industrial sectors, and facilitate regional integration. Participants also discussed the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) process. They noted that respect for JAES’s fundamental principles such as ‘treating Africa as one’ and ensuring the ‘harmonisation of existing policy frameworks’ will be more effective than emphasising ‘functional deliverables’ only.