Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2016

Extract from the Brookings Institutions’ Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2016

‘Africa is at a tipping point in 2016. Despite all the success the continent has achieved in recent years, new and old dangers—economic, political, and security-related—threaten to derail its progress. I am not trying to sound ominous, though: Africa, with sound policymaking, effective leadership, and enough foresight—can meet and defeat these challenges as well as the many more to come.

In this year’s Foresight Africa, the Africa Growth Initiative and its colleagues discuss six overarching themes that place Africa at this tipping point and give their views on what they perceive to be key areas for intervention to keep Africa on its current rising trajectory. This year’s format is different from years past, encompassing viewpoints from high-level policymakers, academics, and practitioners, as well as utilizing visuals to better illustrate the paths behind and now in front of Africa.

In the first chapter, the authors cover the adverse effects of recent external economic shocks on Africa’s already slowing economic growth. While threats like the economic slowdown in PREFACE China and falling commodity prices may sound menacing to African economies, they actually provide opportunities in 2016 for implementing sound (and often innovative) policies for maintaining future growth.

Domestic growth and structural transformation is the theme of the second chapter, where the authors discuss jobs and the changing face of Africa’s economies. Despite Asia’s experience with industry as a driver of sustained growth, Africa’s growth is centered on the services sector—which raises a red flag for some experts. With the Sustainable Development Goals’ new emphasis on industry and jobs, 2016 is the perfect time to jump-start industrialization in Africa.

Human development in recent years has seen a myriad of successes and disappointments: Poverty rates continue to fall, but the number of poor in sub-Saharan Africa is actually rising. Malawi, Uganda, and others finally have agricultural sectors strong enough to support savings and investment by farmers, but the five countries with the highest food and nutrition security needs in the world are also in the region. Contributors in the third chapter cover these issues (as well as inequality, fragile states, women’s empowerment, and climate resilience) and what to do about them in 2016.

As Africa rapidly transforms both demographically and geographically, successful planning for urbanization must be on the agenda in 2016. The African population’s rapid move to cities is quickly creating megacities and huge population growth in intermediate cities before officials have the chance to implement good policies or finance robust infrastructure to support their inhabitants. In fact, the majority of urban residents in Africa live in slums, and access to electricity, sanitation, and clean water is not adequate.

2016 also brings a number of complex political and governance challenges, following on from the year before. While 2015 did see many successes (Nigeria peacefully transitioned to a new regime and the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement was signed), it also experienced upheavals (the civil wars in the Central African Republic and South Sudan raged on and the Nile riparian states continued their heated dispute). As the upcoming year could see a continuation of these trends, the fifth chapter covers how leaders might address the continuing obstacles to peace, prosperity, and good governance at both the national and regional levels in 2016.

With the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, trade relationships the world over will drastically change in 2016—just as African countries are taking major steps towards regional economic integration and enacting their own export-oriented policies. The sixth and final chapter explores the changes in and implications of the shifting global trade environment on Africa’s prospects for enhancing its own competitiveness and trade performance.

With our sixth annual Foresight Africa, we aim to capture the top priorities for Africa in 2016, offering recommendations for African and international stakeholders for creating and supporting a strong, sustainable, and successful Africa. In doing so, we hope that Foresight Africa 2016 will promote a dialogue on the key issues influencing economic development in Africa in 2016 and ultimately provide sound strategies for sustaining and expanding the benefits of economic growth to all people of Africa in the years ahead.

Over the course of the year, we will incorporate the feedback we will get from our readers and continue the debate on Africa’s priorities through a series of events, research reports, and blog posts. We look forward to this important conversation on how Africa might best flourish in 2016.’

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