Photo: CIFOR | Flickr Creative Commons
Africa is a continent rich in natural resources and boasts a large young, ambitious, and entrepreneurial-minded population. Harnessed properly, these endowments and advantages could usher in a period of sustained economic growth and increased well-being for all Africans.
However, a lack of modern infrastructure is a major challenge to Africa’s economic development and constitutes a significant impediment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to a recent report by the World Bank, there are varying trends in Africa’s infrastructure performance across key sectors and regions. In telecommunications, Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a dramatic improvement in the quantity and quality of infrastructure, and the gains are broad-based. Access to safe water has also risen, with 77% of the population having access to water in 2015, from 51% in 1990. In the power sector, by contrast, the region’s electricity-generating capacity has changed little in more than 20 years. At about 0.04 megawatts per 1,000 people, capacity is less than one-third of that of South Asia, and less than one-tenth of that of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Editor's Note: Below is a viewpoint from Chapter 6 of the Foresight Africa 2018 report, which explores six overarching themes that provide opportunities for Africa to overcome its obstacles and spur inclusive growth. Read the full chapter on the changing nature of Africa's external relationships here.
. The compact brings together interested African countries with the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, and other multilateral and bilateral partners to develop and support policies and actions that are essential for attracting private investment. To date, 10 countries have signed up for the initiative and outlined their aspirations and reform programs under a framework adopted by the G-20 finance ministers in March 2017.
Photo: Ravinder Casley Gera
Alberto Gwande and his students at Khuzi school in Malawi need more teachers. The school is severely understaffed, with only six teachers for nearly 800 students. “I was supposed to receive new teachers last year, but they never came,” recalls Alberto, the headteacher.
Khuzi is 20 kilometres away from Nathenje, the nearest large village with a trading center, and its Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) is 131 pupils per teacher. In contrast, Chibubu school, located four kilometers from Nathenje, has a PTR of 65, while Mwatibu school, located inside the village, has a PTR of just 49. And yet, despite the shortage at Khuzi, it was Chibubu which received four new teachers last year.
More and more courts are going digital. But does this improve judicial performance?
Legal literature on ‘e-justice’ seems to think so. So too does the World Development Report, ‘Digital Dividends,’ which highlights the potential for ICT to improve the transparency and quality of government service delivery.
As electronic court reporting is one key aspect of this trend, we want to take the opportunity to look at the pros and cons of improving judicial performance in different contexts.
Business plan competitions have increasingly become one policy option used to identify and support high-growth potential businesses. For example, the World Bank has helped design and support these programs in a number of sub-Saharan African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. These competitions often attract large numbers of applications, raising the question of how do you identify which business owners are most likely to succeed?
In a recent working paper, Dario Sansone and I compare three different approaches to answering this question, in the context of Nigeria’s YouWiN! program. Nigerians aged 18 to 40 could apply with either a new or existing business. The first year of this program attracted almost 24,000 applications, and the third year over 100,000 applications. After a preliminary screening and scoring, the top 6,000 were invited to a 4-day business plan training workshop, and then could submit business plans, with 1,200 winners each chosen to receive an average of US$50,000 each. We use data from the first year of this program, together with follow-up surveys over three years, to determine how well different approaches would do in predicting which entrants will have the most successful businesses.
The global economic recovery will see economic conditions improving in Sub-Saharan Africa. Activity is projected to pick up across the region over the forecast horizon, helped by firming commodity prices and gradually strengthening domestic demand. However, in the absence of reforms, potential growth is expected to remain low given demographic and investment trends, weighing on per capita incomes and diminishing the prospects for poverty reduction. Downside risks predominate, including the possibilities that commodity prices could remain weak, global financing conditions could tighten in a disorderly fashion, and that regional political uncertainty and security tensions could intensify. On the upside, a stronger-than-expected pickup in global activity could further boost exports, investment, and growth in the region.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth outlook is improving
Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to pick up to 3.2 percent this year from an estimated 2.4 percent in 2017 and 1.3 percent in 2016, and strengthen gradually. While Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa – the region’s largest economies — will struggle to boost growth, the performance of the rest of the region will be stronger.
Source: World Bank
Note: shaded areas represent forecasts
Photo: Scaling Solar project in Zambia
What is a common thread between Argentina, Maldives, and Zambia? In each of these countries, the World Bank provided guarantees to support transparent auctions for renewable energy. Through these, I have seen how the Bank’s involvement helped increase private investors’ confidence, attract world-class developers, and ultimately reduce tariffs.
Drawing on 10 years of diverse experience in the power sector in both public and private organizations, my role is to help bridge the divide between public and private parties and help each side better understand the other. The World Bank is ideally positioned for this. Both sides understand the World Bank carries out a detailed due diligence and ensures the auction meets international standards. Both sides appreciate the World Bank will be an honest broker if issues arise. Because of its long term and continuous involvement in our client countries, the World Bank can help identify and solve issues early on. As such, no World Bank project-based guarantee has ever been called.
When we visited the rural commune of Molota about 115 km (70 miles) north-east of the Guinean capital of Conakry, the commune council members explained to us that they were happily surprised to see about 1,600,000 Guinean Francs had been contributed by their population in less than a week after conducting a participatory budgeting exercise. It was a small ($160) but clearly positive and tangible change given the fact that, the previous year, there had been “zero” Guinean Francs collected as local revenue in their budget.
The world’s climate is changing, and is projected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The impact of climate change will be particularly felt in agriculture, as rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased pests and diseases pose new and bigger risks to the global food system. Simply put, climate change will make food security and poverty reduction even more challenging in the future.
Urbanization in Rwanda has contributed to poverty reduction in Rwanda, but its potential could be realized more fully with better connectivity in terms of roads and transport, according to our findings in a new report, Reshaping Urbanization in Rwanda: Economic and Spatial Trends and Proposals.
This reduction in Multi-Dimensional Poverty (MDP) was fairly consistent across the country, though graphically it is clear that areas around the capital, Kigali, and lying closer to or on Rwanda’s borders with other countries have experienced the strongest amount of improvement (Figure 1), with some areas bordering Uganda and most areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) along Lake Kivu showing the most visible signs of improvement.