At a time when Africa has bold aspirations, through Agenda 2063, to confront large scale challenges like the ascendant demographic curve, green industrialization and domestic resource mobilization, it is imperative that innovation be inclusive in order to facilitate the creation of decent jobs, generate investments, and contribute to the continent’s structural transformation. As a late comer, Africa has the advantage to leapfrog technologies, learn from others mistakes and reinvent things differently in a way that promotes sustainability as well as inclusiveness.
Africa's "Blue world" is made of vast lakes and rivers and an extensive ocean resource base. Thirty-eight of the fifty-four African States are coastal States. More than 90 percent of Africa’s imports and exports are conducted by sea and some of the most strategic gateways for international trade are in Africa, underscoring the geopolitical importance of the region. Maritime zones under Africa’s jurisdiction total about 13 million square kilometres including territorial seas and approximately 6.5 million square kilometres of the continental shelf.
The launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations by the AU leaders in June 2015 in Johannesburgwas a milestone. Once in place, the free trade area will cover more than a billion people with a continental GDP of over US$ 3 trillion.
The domino effect of five central banks - Denmark, Switzerland, the European Central bank, the bank of Japan and more recently Sweden, slashing interest rates to sub – zero levels has certainly given many the chills. Viewed as a desperate move to stimulate growth by rewarding spending and penalizing savings – it is in fact more related to the unsustainability of public expenditure modelled for a demographic curve that is no longer there.
Tumbling commodity prices have refocused attention to sustainability of growth in Africa. For over a decade, high demand and rising prices for Africa’s commodities have contributed significantly to growth on the continent. However, since 2011, continued fall in the price of oil and natural gas, and, more recently other minerals, are threatening to turn tailwinds into headwinds. Declining demand in major emerging economies coupled with continuous fragility in developed economies, as well as volatility in the currency and shrinking confidence all call for a reality check.
Africa's much trumpeted growth is real. It is a significant historical achievement to be able to almost triple GDP in one and half decade. The business of attribution is always a risky undertaking and it would be no different in this case. To say this achievement was provoked by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is very partial. To say it was despite the MDGs would be nonsense. Africa's growth has been possible by a combination of factors, some internal, some external.
The ambitions of a young Ugandan entrepreneur to expand his coffee processing business will soon be within reach. East Africa’s accelerated integration process is opening up possibilities that were unthinkable not long ago. In a couple of years he may be able to tap into West Africa’s 350 million people without having to pay the high tariffs and transport costs that currently make it easier to export to Europe than to other parts of the continent.
By Carlos Lopes and Amina J. Mohammed
As the race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draws to a close, the momentum will only intensify as the baton passes to the post-2015 development agenda, including global goals for people and planet to be adopted by world leaders in September at the Headquarters of the United Nations. How ready is Africa to embrace this ground-breaking universal development agenda?