Top 5 Priorities for Africa in 2015

Since 2010, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative has presented a series of briefs on the critical issues and key moments for Africa over the next 12 months. From the Presidential Elections in Nigeria to the 6th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, this brief presents good points for dialogue and ultimately supports sound policy for sustained economic growth and development in Africa.

This excerpt from AGI’s ‘Foresight Africa 2015’, focuses on the top 5 priorities for the African continent in the year 2015.

FIGHTING EBOLA: A STRATEGY FOR ACTION

African populations continue to suffer under the heavy burden of disease despite overall sustained increases in income levels over the last decade. Three major diseases are among those responsible for health crises: malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and in 2014, the Ebola virus emerged as a forum virus with pandemic potential.

2014 in West Africa will be remembered not for progress made in combatting infectious diseases but as the year the Ebola virus crippled three countries on the continent and inflicted economic damage to many others. The 20th Ebola outbreak globally has captured the attention of the world like none of the others that have preceded it and like no other disease has in recent history.

In the short term, the focus should first be on winning the battle and getting to zero cases in all countries. This effort will require strong leadership from the respective governments and their health services.

Second, restoring confidence in the health system remains an important part of the short-term challenge. Ebola is attacking the very health systems responsible for controlling and eradicating it. At the moment, African countries have mobilized over 380 health workers according to the African Union to assist the countries in addition to the U.S, Cuba, and the U.K, among others.

Third, there is need for rapid financing to assist countries in managing the demand for basic health services, especially when public resources are already stretched.

THE 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

The 2015 presidential election in Nigeria – the fifth since 1999 when the military handed over power to elected civilians – will be the first time that the opposition will have a realistic chance of wresting power from the ruling People’s Democratic party (PDP).

The emergence of a viable opposition coincides with a period of great tension in the country which consequently heightens interest and importance of the outcome of this political event in Africa, especially as Nigeria is yet the biggest economy in the continent.

THE SIXTH FORUM ON CHINA-AFRICA COOPERATION: NEW AGENDA AND NEW APPROACH?

The 6th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in South Africa in 2015. This will be the first FOCAC meeting since President Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013. Given China’s priorities and agenda in past FOCAC meetings and the heightened importance the Xi administration has attached to Africa, expectations are that China will boost its financing commitment and development priorities in Africa at the 6th FOCAC meeting.

China has consistently doubled its financing commitment to Africa during the past three FOCAC meetings – from $5 billion in 2006 to $10 billion in 2009 and $20 billion in 2012. The outcome of this forum will guide China’s Africa policy for the following three years.

As Africa’s largest trading partner and a major investor, China’s actions have major implications for the development of the continent. Thus, Africa needs to accurately anticipate and assess the Chinese agenda, weighing the pros and cons, in order to approach FOCAC with strategies and priorities that will align with that agenda but also meet African needs.

AFRICA LOOKS FORWARD TO THE POST2015 DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) era has seen a transformation in the African Development narrative. Africa’s prospects in 2015 are markedly different from what they were in 2000. African economies have grown at rates rivalling those of East Asia, averaging 6 percent in 2013 (excluding South Africa) (Africa Progress Panel 2014). By 2025, if current growth trajectories continue, three out of every five Africa countries will be middle income. Africa is increasingly depicted by its leaders as a continent of opportunity.

Compared to the MDGs’ focus on basic needs, the post 2015 agenda has three new prongs that are critical to development success in Africa and that are incorporated in the six pillars of the Common

  1. Job Creation – Recent growth in Africa has not created enough good jobs: In the past decade, Africa’s labour force grew by 91 million people, but only 37 million of these were in jobs in wage-paying sectors (UNDP 2013).
  2. Infrastructure and Governance – African infrastructure in transport, power, irrigation, storage and other areas is underdeveloped. Addressing it will require a larger pipeline of projects, better governance to encourage the entry of private long-term investors, and new financing: The estimated financing gap for infrastructure is about $48 billion per year.
  3. Peace and Security – Twenty-four countries in sub-Saharan Africa have extreme poverty rates exceeding 40 percent, of which 18 are listed by OECD as fragile states (World Bank 2014c). This implies that in order to eradicate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, there needs to be a strong push to invest in peace, security and institutional reform.

HOW THE WEST CAN DO MORE MILITARILY IN AFRICA

In 2015, new and precarious security challenges face the African continent. Elections loom in Nigeria as well as in at least 10 other African countries, raising prospects of electoral violence, while internal political fights in Libya, among others, rage on. Violent extremism has also become a persistent threat, from the tragic attacks in 2013 on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall and multiple assaults on Kenya’s coastal region by al-Shabab, to the kidnap of over 200 Chibok schoolgirls and slew of bombings in Nigeria by Boko Haram throughout 2014.

These instances of violence undermine the region’s dramatic economic growth, slow or even halt investment, jeopardize the welfare of its citizens, contribute to famine, create regional instability, and destabilize governments and public institutions. They also threaten Western interests by fostering instability that enables the spread of extremism, with the “underwear bomber” of Nigerian origin in 2009 serving as an early warning sign of what could emerge from the region.

In light of these developments, African governments and organizations should prioritize the following in their 2015 security agenda:

  • A fully operational African Standby Force that would enable the AU to respond to localized crises that might balloon into more serious conflicts or are perpetuating existing conflicts.
  • Building on Obama’s acknowledgement that the Libya effort has not turned out well, a much more intensive international effort to help train and outfit a national police force and a national army should be enacted.
  • With U.S. forces downsizing dramatically in Afghanistan (even if increasing their role modestly in Iraq and Syria), the United States could consider sending what is now known as a Security Force Assistance Brigade to the Congo to undergird the U.N. effort there and begin the process of making the Congolese armed forces truly capable of handling more of the nation’s internal security challenges than they are now able to muster.

For Africa to achieve transformative progress, policy solutions must come from African sources. The Africa Growth Initiative brings together African scholars to provide policymakers with high-quality research, expertise and innovative solutions that promote Africa’s economic development.

To read the full report, go HERE to download a copy:  Foresight Africa 2015 Report

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