Expanding Africa’s Digital Frontier:

Farmers Show the Way

Aparajita Goyal

October 20, 2014

By Aparajita Goyal, Young Professional economist at the World Bank.

Agricultural transformation is a priority for Africa. Harnessing the rapid growth of digital technologies holds hope for transformative agricultural development.

We are now witnessing steady growth in rigorous and quantitative evidence from around the globe on the impact of ICT innovations on people’s lives.

This evidence is still limited to certain countries and contexts. Whether these effects are going to be a general trend or translate forward into larger aggregate gains still remains to be seen.

ICT is no panacea; it needs to be backed by complementary investments in rural roads, electricity, literacy etc. IT policy and the broader regulatory environment have to be discussed jointly.

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Mom-and-pop shops in Africa

How long will they continue to generate most new jobs?

Thomas-Pave-Sohnesen

October 16, 2014

By Thomas Pave Sohnesen, Development Research Group at Copenhagen University and Rockwool Foundation Research Unit, Denmark; associated with the World Bank’s Development Research Group in Washington DC.

Mom-and-pops shops are the smallest of enterprises. This is self-employment in non-incorporated enterprises in the non-farm sector, with the vast majority of them employing only one person.

Currently, they provide jobs for most people outside of agriculture: 21 per cent of the SSA labor force in 2010, while the wage sector (public and private) provided jobs for 15 per cent.

This is the most common type of employment outside of agriculture in SSA and will for the foreseeable future continue to generate more jobs than the wage sector.

Some governments have policies and programs for Household Enterprises, far most do not. The sector is more difficult to address than traditional industries, as it is more diverse and difficult to reach.

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South Africa’s Battle for Human Dignity

The Constitution debated and tested

Henning M

Comments icon 1 comments October 12, 2014

By Henning Melber, Director emeritus and Senior Advisor of The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Senior Advisor of The Nordic Africa Institute and Extraordinary Professor at the Department of Political Sciences/University of Pretoria and the Centre for Africa Studies/University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

The Constitution of South Africa has been a marker for promoting and protecting human dignity. The constitutional law and the Constitutional Court as its guardian have left a strong imprint on society.

Recalling some of the most principled judgments is an impressive reminder that a Constitution and the pursuance of a rights-based approach do matter despite shortcomings in the implementation.

Comparing the constitutional ideals and the social realities reveals that the efforts of bringing about a more just, fair and human society remain an uphill battle.

The fight for democracy, human rights, dignity and justice will continue. The success of a constitutional democracy loyal to human dignity requires citizens to stand up and claim their rights.

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Post-2015 Development Agenda:

Not likely a repetition of the MDGs

GoranHyden

Comments icon 1 comments October 7, 2014

By Göran Hydén, NAI Associate and Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Florida, Gainesville.

The international community is currently trying to gather strength and consensus to push for a new global development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The adoption of the MDGs has generally been regarded as proof of the relevance of the U.N. system and it helped enhance its legitimacy. An agreement on the proposed SHDs would hopefully do the same.

Today security often competes with poverty in development policy. Furthermore, unemployment was not an issue at the turn of the century but has become increasingly so in recent years.

The emerging post-2015 agenda will pay less attention to social and economic rights and more to how poor people can benefit from the opportunities provided through the private sector.

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Africans deserve good leaders too

MoIIna

Comments icon 1 comments October 3, 2014

By Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Key note speaker at the Nordic Africa Days 2014, and Ms. Iina Soiri, Director, Nordic Africa Institute.

African developments have attracted curious attention all over the world in recent years. Steady economic growth, diminishing poverty and fewer violent conflicts have changed perceptions on Africa.

The only way this positive spiral can be sustained is through better management of African economies, social life, legal structures and institutions. Africa urgently needs better leadership and governance.

The unique bond of solidarity and partnership between the peoples of the African continent and the Nordic region is demonstrated in high levels of official development aid and cooperation in many walks of life.

Africa is experiencing increasing inequality, causing stress in the social fabric and increased discontent. Here we can perhaps learn something from the inclusive capitalism model of the Nordic countries.

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Social Pensions in Africa

Older persons' needs should and can be met

Marion O

October 1, 2014

By Marion Ouma, Programme Coordinator, Africa Platform for Social Protection, Nairobi, Kenya

Social protection for older persons in Africa is lacking although the evidence shows that well designed and implemented schemes can be powerful tools for reducing poverty and vulnerability.

Such programmes can be affordable and sustainable for low-income countries; universal social pensions are possible at the current development levels of most countries.

Sweden launched a universal social pension system 100 years ago when average real income was lower than in many African countries now. The provision of social pensions in Africa is a realistic prospect.

The current average African economic growth rate of 5% provides financial means through which governments can develop social protection programmes with effective taxation and political will.

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Rebutting the ‘Africa Rising’ meme

Morten Jerven2

Comments icon 1 comments September 26, 2014

By Morten Jerven, Associate Professor, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, B.C., Canada.

One of the most frequently repeated factoids supporting the Africa Rising meme was that “seven out of ten of the fastest growing economies are in Africa”, from a data exercise in 2011 by The Economist.

In reality this is both a far less accurate and much less impressive statistic than it sounds. Narratives on African economic development tend to be loosely connected to facts, and instead are driven more by hype.

Most of the time we simply do not know enough to assert accurate growth rates. There are also known biases and manipulations.

The evidence does not yet readily provide us with an answer. It is the job of scholars to give tempered assessments that navigate between what is make-believe and what passes as plausible evidence.

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Eliminating poverty in Africa:

An appeal for more realistic targets

Liesl LV

September 22, 2014

By Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Consultant, The Institute for Security Studies, Johannesburg, South Africa.

New research by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) African Futures Project shows that Africa will realistically, only achieve the 1990’s slogan of ‘making poverty history’ by 2063.

The forecast maps out a comprehensive set of policy interventions that will make every African citizen sit up and think again about the sometimes-morose predictions for the continent’s future.

The future is certainly largely unpredictable, and the researchers admit that shocks or unforeseen political interventions – Ebola comes to mind – can steer things in a completely different direction.

Agenda 2063 marks 100 years after the formation of the OAU. The research shows that such a distant time horizon may be appropriate given the deep-rooted nature of Africa’s poverty challenge.

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Not so mega?

The risky business of large-scale PPPs in African agriculture

Robin-Willoughby

Comments icon 1 comments September 17, 2014

By Robin Willoughby, Food and Climate Justice policy adviser at Oxfam GB and leader of Oxfam International's agricultural investment policy work.

At a large summit on the future of African agriculture last week, the buzzwords were ‘investment opportunities’, ‘transformation’ and ‘public-private partnerships.’

Despite the worthy aims of the hosts ‘A Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA)’, discussion of poverty, rights, gender or inequality was rather absent from the plenary.

The risks of large scale public-private partnership (mega-PPPs) are enormous, particularly in the areas targeted for investment. Huge land transfers are a core component of the mega-PPP agenda.

Mega-PPP projects are focussing less on the needs of poor small-scale farmers and more on wealthier, more ‘commercially viable’ farmers and bigger, politically well-connected companies.

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GMOs and food sovereignty

Which way Africa?

Henry Makori

Comments icon 3 comments September 12, 2014

By Henry Makori, editor with Pambazuka News.

A Kenya government agency is to stop the sale of a popular seasoning product because it contains genetically modified ingredients that could harm consumers.

The Government banned production or importation of GMOs in 2012, but is now considering to allow to them in order to boost food production and alleviate poverty.

GMOs are now being touted as a major solution to hunger and mass poverty in Africa. South Africa is a leading proponent, while Nigeria and Tanzania are coming around.

Biotechnology helps boost industrial agriculture, but inadequate food production is not why a billion people are hungry; it is lack of access.

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