Every year, leading international think tank, The Brookings Institution publishes Foresight Africa, a report that sets out key development priorities for the continent. Here are our top take aways from the report.
1) 50% of African economies will experience impressive economic growth in 2018
According to Dr. Brahima S. Coulibaly, Director of the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings, aggregate growth for the region is set to rise to 5 percent in 2018. About half of the world’s fastest-growing economies will still be found on the continent, with over 20 economies increasing at a rate of 5 percent or higher over the next five years. As a result, Coulibaly argues that negative predictions about Africa’s economic potential may be premature.
2) The region needs to focus on resource mobilisation to meet development goals
Given the challenging external financing environment, Dr. Coulibaly argues that African countries must mobilise more domestic resources to finance their development agendas. First of all, the weak outlook for commodity prices means that many countries can’t depend on export earnings. Rising government debt will prevent many countries from issuing public debt to fund economic development. Finally, the future of overseas development assistance, a crucial source of financing for some countries, is unclear.
3) Digitisation can help to incentivise private savings and mobilise domestic resources
Recent technological advances are helping to incentivise private savings and enhancing governments’ access to new sources of financing. For example, earlier in the year, Kenya offered the world’s first mobile-only retail bond with a subscription level starting at $30 and a coupon rate of 10 percent. Mostly taken up by small savers, the bond allowed the government to tap a new pool of funds and low-income Kenyans to earn interest on their savings.
4) Well-deployed tech can transform educational practices
Rebecca Winthrop, Director and Senior Fellow, and Katie Langford, Research Intern, Center for Universal Education, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution, also point out that well-deployed technology can boost access to high-quality education. Across the continent, innovators are harnessing tech to boost classroom engagement and track students’ progress. A great example is Eneza Education, a private sector programme operating in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Eneza Education gives students with mobile access to quizzes connected to the national curriculum. After completing the assessments via text, students receive feedback and mini-lessons addressing areas where they need support. The company reports that students who used Eneza boosted test scores by 5 percent compared to a control group.
5) Implementing Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area properly will be a game changer for the region’s economies
To ensure sustainable and inclusive development, it’s crucial that African countries diversify, boost value-added manufacturing and industrialise. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa, said that properly implementing Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) would help address these problems. The agreement will bring down tariff and non-tariff barriers among African countries, helping to boost intra-African trade. What’s more, this anticipated expansion in trade is crucial to creating decent jobs and increasing incomes across the region.
Songwe reports that eight rounds of negotiations have been successful, with African Ministers of Trade agreeing and adopting the Protocol on Trade in Services by 2nd December 2017. Although the Protocol on Trade in Goods requires more work, an extraordinary African Union summit is planned before the end of March 2018 to complete and sign the entire CFTA agreement.
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