Narratives of “the hopeless continent” and “Africa rising”, pumped by the West, woven into its knowledge with nostalgic pop culture, rubber-stamped by media and financial institutions, are observed by the author to be false propaganda. A study by Standard Bank titled “Understanding Africa’s Middle Class”, notes African Development Bank’s (AfDB) claims that by 2010, 350 million people or 34% were middle-class in Africa, up from 27% in 1990. Examining 11 countries, chosen for, among other things, scale of population, growth and economy- Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia- the Standard Bank report noted that since 2000 the collective GDP of the 11 measured economies has grown tenfold from US$120 billion to today’s level of over US$1 trillion, with a growth in the middle class of 230% in the period. While East Africa is lagging behind in pushing low-income earners to the middle, the region is argued to offer the most interesting findings in the report, with a broad upward shift within the low-income band as households shift from deeply marginalised into less poor categories. Africa’s growing middle class may be driving the rising narratives, but the upward movement of low-income groups is argued to be where the most economic potential will be realised. It’s also these groups that will have the largest impact on political and social development. They’re the groups in the majority, the ones with the largest votes and the largest claim to the need for improved living conditions.
Health equity in economic and trade policies
The ability of African countries to respond to HIV and AIDS is dependent on their ability to control the terms of trade, elicit more favourable patent policies on medication and climb out of poverty - all linked to globalisation. While globalisation has brought some benefits to the urban elite in Africa - information, communication and technology - the outcomes have not reached the urban poor and rural folk who form more than 80 per cent of African populations.
African ministers of mineral resources resolved, in a conference in Addis Ababa in December 2011, to move into action to reform Africa’s mining sector to benefit the African people. They set a brand new vision apparent in its action plan that includes these six points: Member States should reform the fiscal framework in order to optimise benefits from the mineral sector; Member States should explore the possibility of renegotiating existing contracts to secure a fair share of the rent; Member States should align their development strategies to their long term national development goals; Member States should ensure transparency in the collection and use of mining revenues; Governments could explore the use of equity participation in mineral ventures to capture a greater share of benefits; and Governments in collaboration with partners should build capacity of oversight bodies. Along with the action plan, the ministers reasserted the African Mining Vision (AMV) approved by the February 2009 African Union Summit. The AMV puts development outcomes at the heart of mineral regimes to stimulate the local economy and help prevent mines operating as enclave enterprises.
How Africa urbanises will be critical to the continent’s future growth and development, according to the African Economic Outlook 2016. Africa’s economic performance held firm in 2015 amid global headwinds and regional shocks. The continent remained the second fastest growing economic region after East Asia. In 2015, net financial flows to Africa were estimated at USD 208 billion, 1.8% lower than in 2014 due to a contraction in investment, while official development assistance increased by 4%; and remittances remain the most stable and important single source of external finance at USD 64 billion in 2015. According to the authors, if harnessed by adequate policies, urbanisation can help advance economic development through higher agricultural productivity, industrialisation, services stimulated by the growth of the middle class, and foreign direct investment in urban corridors. It also can promote social development through safer and inclusive urban housing and robust social safety nets. Finally, it can further sound environmental management by addressing the effects of climate change as well as the scarcity of water and other natural resources, controlling air pollution, developing clean cost-efficient public transportation systems, improving waste collection, and increasing access to energy. Seizing this urbanisation dividend requires bold policy reforms and planning efforts, however, such as by strengthening local governance, tailoring national urban strategies to specific contexts and diverse urban realities and harnessing innovative financing instruments.
Africa’s development agenda beyond 2015 was at the heart of discussions at the 15th International Economic Forum in Africa: “Africa beyond 2015”, in Berlin in September 2015. According to the OECD, Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to strengthen to 2016 but poverty and hunger rates remain stubbornly high, progress in health and education is uneven, and huge inequalities persist between and within countries, and between women and men. Furthermore, low productivity and investment as well as weak or non-existent infrastructure are holding back economic and development progress. A panel of African leaders suggested that regional development strategies and local assets provide possible solutions to these challenges, and discussed special economic zones, economic corridors, strategies for lagging regions and slum upgrading for promoting regional development, overcoming spatial inequalities, mobilising local resources and creating productive employment opportunities. The importance of the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda “to speak with one voice and to act in unity to ensure that Africa’s voice is heard and is fully integrated into the global development agenda,” was highlighted.
African Union ministers of trade and agriculture gathered in early December 2012 at a joint conference in Addis Ababa to discuss their growing and increasingly overlapping work agendas. Agriculture remains the key source of income and employment for most Africans, while efforts intensify across the continent to liberalise intra-regional trade. In this blog, the authors summarise the main resolutions from the summit, while the final outcomes document is being drafted. Ministers agreed to accelerate implementation of the Plan of Action for Boosting Intra-Africa Trade in both agricultural commodities and processed food products. This is hoped to lead to an early deal to liberalise key regional food staples markets, as part of the continental free trade area. They also identified the national and regional compacts and investment plans of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as the main instruments to define and operationalise trade-agriculture collaboration, while strengthening the capacity of relevant institutions and producers to effectively participate in these innovative practices and monitor their impact at country level. While they acknowledged the need to work at national, regional and continental levels to remove trade barriers in agricultural commodities, they emphasised that without immediate follow-up, food security will remain uncertain.
At the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) diplomatic conference on 9-10 August in Swakopmund, Namibia, the protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore was signed by African nine states. ARIPO currently has 17 member states. Nine states signed the protocol and the remaining eight states will have to accede to the protocol. Some states have already initiated the process for the ratification and accession, according to a spokesperson for ARIPO, Emmanuel Sackey. The protocol will enter into force after six contracting states have ratified or acceded to it, Sackey said. The organisation is expected to take initiatives on traditional knowledge and link its initiatives with those undertaken by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) through its active involvement in the WIPO activities in this field. The protocol is meant to ‘protect creations derived from the exploitation of traditional knowledge in ARIPO member states against misappropriation and illicit use through bio-piracy,’ according to ARIPO. The protocol should also prevent the ‘grant of patents in respect of inventions based on pirated traditional knowledge (…) and to promote wider commercial use and recognition of that knowledge by the holders, while ensuring that collective custodianship and ownership are not undermined by the introduction of new regimes of private intellectual property rights.’ The United Nations has warned against the application of western legal and economic principles to collectively owned knowledge in traditional communities.
Inter-African trade, which is high on the agenda at the upcoming African Union (AU) summit, will not remain the AU’s only priority in 2012. According to this report in Africa Review, the ambitious list of priorities consists of efforts to boost the continent’s global role, and plans to review the AU’s international partnerships in order to ensure they bring greater benefits to Africa. Peace and security continue to be a major concern, and AU intends to push its member states to strengthen democracy and good governance, an area closely linked to security concerns. The AU will take steps to establish food reserves and to secure access to markets and competitive prices for farmers. A free trade zone across the continent is envisaged to boost commerce between countries. At present, less than 15% of African trade stays on the continent - the rest is sold abroad.
The African Union (AU) has announced it will proceed with the establishment of a Pan-African Intellectual Property Office (PAIPO), despite misgivings from civil society and development economists about the potential impact on local economies. There is currently no intellectual property (IP) office for Africa. The AU has requested a meeting of all stakeholders dealing with intellectual property before the May 2013 AU Summit. According to the author of this article, public information is difficult to obtain from the African Union, and nothing further is known at this time. He argues that signing up to the global IP system, in which nearly all of the IP rights are owned by non-African entities, clashes with the development objectives of the African Union, which are to promote African sovereignty and equitable development.
At Workers University in Cairo, a mid-May gathering of 100 trade union leaders and intellectuals from across Africa adopted surprisingly common radical language, exhibiting a pent-up desire to jointly fight global neoliberalism. The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria) has been an extraordinary network for 5000 members who are the continent's core of progressive academics. The article provides a detailed recount and discussion of the various arguments and perspectives presented.