The Brookings Institute Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) launched its eighth annual Foresight Africa report
on Wednesday, January 17, an in-depth look at six overarching themes that will shape the continent in the coming year. Experts convened to offer insights on these critical regional trends and provide recommendations for national governments, regional organizations, multilateral institutions, and key stakeholders. This is a review of the main issues that the Foresight has focused on.
Why this Focus Areas?
In the forward to the report, Brahima S. Coulibaly, Senior Fellow and Director Africa Growth Initiative, Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution, highlighted why and what the report focused on, writing in the report forward that.
In a world where China and other emerging economies are ascendant, where cooperation on global governance is under challenge, and where free trade faces headwinds, Africa needs its own institutions to play a more assertive role in advancing the continent’s agenda. The potential for a more unified Africa to create never-before-seen opportunities for trade and economic prosperity is gaining traction. Though the threat of terrorism and political instability still hangs over certain regional hotspots, neighboring African countries are leading peace negotiations and contributing to solutions. Democracy continues to spread, but hiccups seen in countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as temptations of third termism in others, underscore the need to consolidate the gains of good governance. Finally, the demographic tidal wave looms ever closer, and job creation has not yet been able to catch up.
“I am optimistic that Africans will rise to these challenges in 2018 and demonstrate strength, leadership, and greater ownership of their development agendas”, he said.
Foresight Africa 2018 reflects on the possibilities created by this energy. In Chapter 1, African leaders describe initiatives to help the continent harness its potential to secure its future. African institutions—particularly the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank, and regional economic communities—are already unveiling strategies to tackle the continent’s challenges more effectively. Indeed, 2018 is the year in which Africa can unleash its inner strengths.
Realizing a future of African self-reliance will require concerted support for sustainable development financing.
With external financing conditions likely to worsen in the medium term, it will become imperative for African countries to enhance domestic resource mobilization. In Chapter 2, our authors describe, and argue for, new and innovative instruments to better mobilize and leverage resources for development financing.
Striving for shared prosperity while tackling stubborn human development challenges is another priority. Despite robust aggregate economic growth across the region in recent years, extreme poverty persists, and far too many citizens face a bleak future. As a result, migration out of the continent continues to be widespread and dangerous. In Chapter 3, our authors explore this disconnect and offer recommendations on policy interventions to broaden the benefits of future economic growth.
Indeed, a notable feature of growth in Africa is that it is not fundamentally transforming economies. The authors in Chapter 4 examine the continent’s unique growth patterns and consider new pathways towards structural economic transformation.
Challenges such as the threat of automation, the failure to scale up sustainable financing, and faltering progress toward halting women’s continued disempowerment suggest a rethinking of traditional growth and development approaches. Building manufacturing complexity and developing sectors such as tourism and agro-industry, among other solutions, may offer new possibilities.
The advent of technology, despite its potential threat to labor-intensive jobs, is also offering innovative solutions to development challenges in various sectors. Africa continues to be a continent of rapid technological innovation and adoption.
Each obstacle—in areas such as power, banking, education, and farming—throws up calls for tech entrepreneurs to create a solution, and young Africans are responding. In Chapter 5, our authors explore these innovations and their potential to transform the continent. In Chapter 6, authors consider what the region’s harnessed power means for Africa’s engagement on the global stage.
Is Africa creating opportunities and taking initiative for more balanced and mutually beneficial relationships, especially with powerhouses like China, the European Union, the United States, as well as with multilateral organizations and powerful constituency groupings, such as the G-20?.
What will the impact of reduced engagement from the United States be? How do development, defense, and diplomacy best fit into foreign policies toward the continent?
With this edition of Foresight Africa, we aim to capture the top priorities for the region in 2018, offering recommendations for African and international stakeholders to create and support a strong, sustainable, and prosperous continent. In so doing, we hope to promote and inform a dialogue on economic development that will generate sound strategies for sustaining economic growth and broadening its benefits in the years ahead.
Africa Inner Strength
The, Foresight under the theme; Unleashing Africa’s Internal Strength, it focus on several African institution development.
Stronger African Union Under the title; Building a stronger African Union, Paul. Kagame, President of Rwanda wrote;
Despite the myriad challenges we still face, over the past two generations our world has become more prosperous and equitable, and also safer. Cooperation among nations has been a foundation of that progress, as well as the best mechanism for sustaining it.
This is nowhere truer than in Africa. At independence, our continent and our individual countries were profoundly divided and unable to capitalize on our own wealth. For decades, Africa only seemed to fall further and further behind the rest of the world.
Those days are drawing to a close, and closer regional integration within Africa is a major reason why. The benefits are already being felt as our markets become more visible to the global economy. Security issues are increasingly being handled constructively and sustainably by African institutions, in many cases in collaboration with partners, thereby reducing the burden on everyone.
But we still have a long way to go to build the Africa we want. This is why African leaders decided in 2016 to give full force to the African Union’s founding ambitions by bringing to term the institutional reform of the organization.
The achievements of the African Union are significant and often unheralded, but it can and must do more.
The first pillar of the reform is to finance our activities ourselves. African Union programs are almost entirely financed by external partners. Africa’s interests and sense of ownership get lost, and the interests of donors could be better served as well. It is also unsustainable. It is reckless for Africa to rely so heavily on sources of funding that are likely to dry up sooner rather than later, especially when we have the means to pay for programs that are beneficial to us.
In July 2016, African leaders adopted a plan to finance the African Union with a 0.2 percent levy on eligible imports, a formula that has been successfully employed in other regional organizations. Twenty member states have so far implemented the mechanism, out of which 14 are already collecting funds.
This strong momentum is solid evidence that there is political will to strengthen the capacity of the African Union, despite the complex politics involved in coordinating among more than 50 member states
The shift to self-financing has had another important consequence: increased attention to the efficiency and performance of the African Union Commission and associated organs. After all, when you’re spending your own money, you want to make sure it’s being used well.
Accordingly, African leaders decided to complete the institutional reform of the African Union, and mandated me to consult with stakeholders around the continent and present recommendations, which was done at the AU Summit in January 2017.
More than 30 separate recommendations were formally adopted, grouped into five main areas: (1) focus on key priorities with continental scope, and improve the division of labor with Regional Economic Communities; (2) re-align African Union institutions to deliver on those priorities; (3) connect the work of the African Union more directly to citizens; (4) manage the business of the African Union more efficiently at both the political and operational levels; and (5) sustainably self-finance its activities.
This reform had been pending for several years, and indeed most of the organization’s problems had already been meticulously analyzed. Indeed, key reforms have been approved before, only to be abandoned.
Our focus therefore was to ensure implementation. From the outset, we were conscious that the risk of failure was real. The political obstacles are complex because change is required not only in the African Union Commission, but in each member state.
A Reform Implementation Unit is up and running in the Office of the Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who has left no doubt about his personal commitment to the reform agenda.
The politics is also not being taken for granted. While there is very strong support for the reform, the implementation process requires regular attention and consultation at the head-of-state level to address concerns and find practical solutions to technical issues experienced by individual states.
Myself, together with the current African Union Chairperson, President Alpha Conde of Guinea, and the previous Chairperson, President Idriss Déby of Chad, have been mandated to oversee the implementation.
What is important is to preserve the principles and purpose that inspired the reform, while showing flexibility on certain details where member states require it. In this way, momentum and progress can be sustained. Africa is increasingly called on to speak with one voice on the global stage. A more effective African Union is not only good for Africa, but for all of us. A more unified and assertive Africa will mean improved coordination on common security challenges, where indeed Africa already shoulders a significant share of the common burden. This may require some accommodation and adjustment in terms of how we do business with each other, and it should be seen as a positive evolution, not a challenge to the existing order.
What should never get lost is the urgent need to work together in good faith and with mutual respect to build a more stable and prosperous world for everyone. The momentum we have seen thus far in implementing the African Union reform suggests that good progress will continue to be made in 2018 and beyond.
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