How West Africa’s cashew companies have weathered the COVID-19 crisis

By Violeta Gonzalez, Head of Partnerships, Outreach and Resource Mobilisation, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)

April is usually cashew marketing season across West Africa – a lively affair where traders tout bags of recently harvested raw nuts to buyers, most of whom have flown in from Vietnam and India. But 2020 was not a usual year. COVID-19 containment measures meant closures – of international borders, stopping major buyers travelling to West Africa – as well as domestic markets, leading to violent clashes between police and traders. It goes without saying that the impact of these border and market closures came at a great cost to the livelihoods of many West African cashew farmers, producers, and traders. Small businesses faced plummeting revenues or were at the brink of bankruptcy. Instead of offering support, local banks and financial institutions supporting West African cashew producers slashed lending during the pandemic.

Agriculture is a risky business at the best of times – good prices depend on good yields, which depend on good weather. While speciality crops like cashews can generate high returns, the risk of capital loss is also high, meaning many banks are hesitant to provide the capital that’s needed for small businesses in West Africa’s cashew sector to flourish. The cashew businesses that have weathered the economic storm created by COVID-19 have something in common – the long-term backing of impact investors who not only provide capital and technical assistance, but who also have a deep understanding of the challenges of the agricultural sector.

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Bâtir une nouvelle structure de financement pour le développement de l’Afrique

Par Jean-Hervé Lorenzi, Président d’honneur du Cercle des économistes avec Théodore Gentil et Léa Konini, chargés de recherche au Cercle des économistes

En 2020, le PIB mondial a chuté de 4,4 % d’après la Banque mondiale. L’économie africaine n’a pas été épargnée par la crise. La crise du Covid s’est traduite par un effondrement des flux financiers vers l’Afrique. Les investissements directs à l’étranger vers le continent, qui avaient déjà chuté de 10,3 % pour s’établir à 45,4 milliards de dollars en 2019 selon la Conférence des Nations unies sur le commerce et le développement (CNUCED), ont chuté de près de 40 % et les flux de transferts des migrants de 25 % en 2020 (Banque européenne d’investissement). La pression fiscale dans la plupart des pays, qui varie autour de 17,2 %, est restée très faible malgré les réformes entreprises dans ce domaine.

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The sectoral and gendered impacts of COVID-19 in Africa

By Anzetse Were, Senior Economist FSD Kenya

Africa, like much of the world, is still in the throes of the COVID pandemic and related economic fallout. The pandemic has cost the continent about USD 69 billion per month and economic growth is projected to contract by 2.6% in 2020. This downturn is set to cost Africa at least $115 billion in output losses in 2020 with GDP per capita growth expected to contract by nearly 6.0 %. Additionally, the pandemic may push 40 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 across the continent, eroding at least five years of progress in fighting poverty.

Diverse sectoral impact

The sectoral impact of COVID-19 has been and will likely continue to be varied. Some sectors such as tourism, aviation and crude oil exports have been disproportionately hit in Africa, while COVID-19 is spurring certain types of digital technologies (such as mobile payments in Kenya and Rwanda), and food production in some countries has been resilient. This points to four main COVID impact-recovery sectoral performance paths (the chart is illustrative):

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Developing an Artificial Intelligence for Africa strategy

By François Candelon, Senior Partner & Managing Director at BCG, and Global Director of the BCG Henderson Institute; Hind El Bedraoui, Ambassador at the BCG Henderson Institute; Hamid Maher, Partner and Managing Director   

Africa has a unique opportunity to develop its competitiveness through artificial intelligence (AI). From agriculture and remote health to translating the 2,000-odd languages spoken across the continent, AI can help tackle the economic problems that Africa faces.

Africa faces several known challenges in developing AI such as a dearth of investment, a paucity of specialised talent, and a lack of access to the latest global research. These hurdles are being whittled down, albeit slowly, thanks to African ingenuity and to investments by multinational companies such as IBM Research, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, which have all opened AI labs in Africa. Innovative forms of trans-continental collaboration such as Deep Learning Indaba (a Zulu word for gathering), which is fostering a community of AI researchers in Africa, and Zindi, a platform that challenges African data scientists to solve the continent’s toughest challenges, are gaining ground, buoyed by the recent “homecoming“ of several globally-trained African experts in AI.

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The challenges and opportunities of implementing local climate action lessons from Quelimane, Mozambique

By Manuel A. Alculete Lopes de Araújo, PhD, Mayor of Quelimane City, Mozambique

Mozambique, one of the most vulnerable countries in Africa to natural disasters, has had to learn first-hand that the effects of climate change are determining factors in the country’s deteriorating poverty situation. As one of the hot spots for various types of natural disasters, mostly directly related to climate change, such as floods, droughts, and cyclones, the country’s development achieved over the years is periodically undermined. As a result, the country still ranks 180th out of 189 on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index. Mozambique’s coastal cities, which could potentially represent a vital driver for the country’s growth, are also particularly exposed to disasters. Tropical cyclones, for instance, occur regularly in the area. Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth hit Mozambique in 2019 at just a few weeks interval, causing enormous destruction and the loss of many lives. But in recent years, the port city of Quelimane decided to tackle climate change through local climate action, involving a broad constellation of public and private sector actors, with the goal of triggering long-term systemic transformation and paving the way for other cities.

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La révolution tunisienne dix ans après : pourquoi doit-on continuer à y croire ?

Par Hakim Ben Hammouda, Universitaire et ancien Ministre de l’Économie et des Finances, Tunisie

La révolution tunisienne le 14 janvier 2011 a été à l’origine d’une grande espérance. Non seulement, elle a libéré la Tunisie d’un autoritarisme anachronique mais elle a aussi ouvert le système politique sur les principes de la modernité politique. Les nouveaux pouvoirs dans les pays des révolutions arabes et dans les autres pays se sont engagés à opérer de grandes réformes constitutionnelles afin d’instaurer le pluralisme politique et un système démocratique avec des élections ouvertes. Parallèlement aux changements politiques, la refonte des modèles de développement était au cœur des priorités post-révolutions et le rêve de construire de nouveaux modèles durables.  

Mais, ces promesses ont été rapidement trahies laissant derrière elles un champ de ruines et un goût d’inachevé. Les transitions politiques se sont transformées dans des conflits ravageurs et dans des guerres destructrices comme en Syrie, en Libye ou au Yémen. Dans d’autres pays la parenthèse démocratique s’est rapidement renfermée et a donné lieu à une restauration autoritaire. Les printemps arabes se sont mus en un hiver glacial qui a emporté les rêves et les espoirs de lendemains qui chantent. Seule la Tunisie a pu poursuivre son chemin et sa transition démocratique. Mais non sans de grandes difficultés et des défis importants qui restent à relever, parfois dans une grande indifférence.

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COVID-19 and the Kafala system: protecting African female migrant workers in Gulf countries

By Mona Ahmed, Junior Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected women and men differently depending on the sector they work in, their employment situation and their access to labour and social protection measures. Domestic and care work, traditionally female-dominated, form one of the most marginalised, undervalued and least protected employment sectors. It therefore comes as no surprise that the current crisis has not reinvented the wheel, but rather amplified persistent vulnerabilities faced by female migrant workers.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are home to the world’s largest number of international labour migrants. According to a study carried out by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), 12% of the 28.1 million migrant workers in GCC countries in 2017 were African, with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait hosting almost 90 percent. Historically a destination for South and Southeast Asian workers, the growing demand in domestic labour has attracted a considerable number of East and West African women, mostly from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. Despite their economic contribution in both origin and destination countries, the duties of child and elderly care, cleaning and food preparation are culturally devalued and receive limited social recognition.  

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Our top 10 blogs of 2020!

In 2020 we posted 179 blogs! Here are the top 10 most read blogs of the year:


1. Landmark Supreme Court victory in Zambia: collecting millions in tax revenues and sending a message across borders

By Ignatius Mvula, Assistant Director – Mining Audit Unit, Zambia Revenue Authority, Mary Baine, Director – Tax Programmes, African Tax Administration Forum, and Ben Dickinson, Head of the Global Relations and Development Division, Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, OECD

The authors explain why a landmark Supreme Court victory in Zambia sends a message that African tax authorities are able and confident to take on and deal with complex transfer pricing transactions.

In French: Victoire historique devant la Cour suprême en Zambie : des milliards de dollars US en recettes fiscales supplémentaires et un message par-delà les frontières

2. COVID-19: consequences for international migration and development

Immigration-coronavirus

By Jason Gagnon, Development economist, OECD Development Centre

Jason Gagnon discusses how to minimise the short-term effects of the Covid-19 crisis on migrants and leverage the crisis to address the unfinished business of international co-operation on migration.

In French: COVID-19 : conséquences pour les migrations internationales et le développement

3. How China is implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

By Xiheng Jiang, Vice-President of China Center for International Knowledge on Development (CIKD)

Xiheng Jiang discusses the key points of China’s Progress Report on Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2019).


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Europe and Africa need to see eye to eye on climate change

By Carlos Lopes, Professor at the University of Cape Town and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

Analysis, including the IPPC reports, show Africa’s vulnerability to climate change despite only accounting for 2% to 3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industrial sources. Africa aspires to attain the economic and technological convergence and benefits similar to those enjoyed in the industrialised world. Other regions got to their advanced development stage at a high cost for the planet, contributing to climate change. Africans should do it differently, taking advantage of being latecomers, with the opportunity to leapfrog into green industrial and technological development. But that requires a framework of support and significant financial resources the continent lacks. It is, therefore, not surprising that Africans are becoming assertive about the need for climate justice. It is a way of demonstrating that the current climate change narrative cannot box them into adaptation and mitigation alone.

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Africa has the potential to make renewable energy the engine of its growth

By Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD)

For the African continent, the stakes are twofold. While Africa is the region of the globe that contributes the least to greenhouse gas emissions, it is the first to be impacted by climate change. Africa has low adaptive capacity and is highly vulnerable to climate variability and natural disasters such as droughts, floods and rising sea-levels, especially affecting low-lying coastal areas. Africa’s food and agriculture sectors are among the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, which are also exacerbating the lack of access to safe water, water stress and health risks, especially malaria, in the region.

In 1992, representatives of 172 countries met in Rio to define the basis for sustainable development and adopt a set of 27 principles on future development directions. Almost thirty years later, the state of the planet is still a cause for great concern and despite some progress, the results are not enough. The majority of climate models and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have concluded that any temperature rise above 2 to 3 degrees celsius will have negative effects on productivity in most parts of the world.

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