Croissance mondiale en baisse, guerre commerciale, automatisation, robotisation … : le commerce international a-t-il encore un rôle positif à jouer dans la transformation des économies de l’Union africaine ?
Si l’on regarde du côté des marchés africains, la réponse est oui : la demande interne a contribué à 69% de la croissance du continent depuis 2000, la maintenant à une moyenne de 4.6% par an, soit la plus rapide au monde après l’Asie (7,4%). Or, cette demande dynamique, portée par une croissance démographique forte, l’urbanisation et l’émergence de « classes moyennes » s’oriente de plus en plus vers des produits transformés comme l’alimentation, les boissons, la viande ou les machines génératrices d’électricité : l’un des principaux obstacles à l’émergence d’un secteur manufacturier africain riche en emplois—la faiblesse de la demande domestique—est ainsi en passe d’être levé ! Or non seulement cette « mégatendance » s’installe pour plusieurs décennies, mais elle prend de l’ampleur au moment où la perspective d’une Zone de Libre-échange Continentale Africaine (ZLECA) rend possible un bond du commerce intra-africain. Continue reading “Transformation productive en Afrique : l’heure des choix”
Africa is at a defining moment in its developmental journey. After experiencing 5% growth from 2001 to 2014, and a slowdown in between, the continent is projected to grow by over 3.5% in 2020 (UN, 2019). Continued economic progress presents opportunities for further accelerated, sustained, and inclusive growth provided that the right policies are put in place.
However, low productivity levels in manufacturing, services and the agricultural sector pose a major threat of economic stagnation with effects on African cities. Africa’s Development Dynamics 2019 by the OECD and the African Union Commission shows that Africa has a labour productivity ratio that is 50% lower than Asia’s and only 12% that of the United States. We believe that low productivity correlates with the quality of urbanisation. We define the quality of urbanisation as human settlements and communities that are able to capture the benefits of urban growth and expansion, quantified by more local and foreign investment, increased regional and international trade, enhanced revenues for local governments, better services for citizens and the activation of a virtuous circle where economic growth and welfare become self-reinforcing (UN-Habitat, 2017).
Policy makers and academics alike puzzle over why some countries achieve economic ‘growth miracles’ while others lag behind. Of the 100 middle-income economies in 1960, fewer than a dozen transitioned into high-income economies. Economic history and empirical observations show that progress is linked to how nations learn and more specifically to the processes of technological learning, industrial policy, and catch-up. By looking at the cases of Japan, the United States, China and Ethiopia, I argue that commitment to learning by governments and dynamic technological learning by firms are key to economic catch-up. How these and other nations learn can provide valuable insight for African countries.
How did Japan overtake Europe in the mid-20th century?
The key driver of catch-up in Japan was technological learning and an active industrial policy. Japan’s learning experience involved the transfer of skills and knowledge, the importation of equipment and the acquisition of turnkey projects to develop technological capability. Japan also developed industrial infrastructure, including railways and the telegraph, by deploying state-owned enterprises. Continue reading “How do Nations Learn? Why Development is First and Foremost About Learning”
Scepticism is never in short supply, generally speaking, and particularly in the era we are currently living through. This is often true when it comes to bold policy initiatives on the African continent. Yet I would argue that a lack of faith is certainly not warranted in the case of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Objections to the AfCFTA follow familiar lines. There are a series of misconceptions which underpin these objections:
“African countries all trade the same things”
Despite evidence of some diversification of exports occurring over recent decades, this is largely true; Africa is still heavily dependent on traditional export crops and commodities, reducing the scope for mutually beneficial trade. Yet this paints an excessively simplified view of trends in regional trade. Patterns of trade are changing rapidly. The traditional export market outside the continent of Africa (Europe, the United States and, increasingly, India and China) are of primary commodities, but the intra-regional component of trade is much more diversified, with high shares of non-traditional exports and manufactured goods, as illustrated by the case of the East African Community (EAC). Continue reading “A Sceptics Guide to the African Continental Free Trade Area – and Why the Sceptics are Wrong…”
Le Sahel vit un tournant, une accélération de l’histoire dont le coût humain est élevé. Nos jeunes pays connaissent une croissance démographique sans précédent. Notre population est de plus en plus jeune et de plus en plus urbaine. Même si elle est élevée, la croissance économique ne permet pas de répondre aux attentes des habitants de plus en plus nombreux. Sur nos vastes territoires, certaines interrogations se font aujourd’hui pressantes. Pourquoi, alors que la « frontière » est la marque de l’État, sa présence y est-elle si discrète ? Quelle attention est accordée aux citoyens vivant loin des capitales ? Comment, lorsque l’on est absent, être perçu comme « légitime », digne de confiance et capable de changer le cours des choses ? C’est à ces questions que nos États et sociétés doivent répondre. Continue reading “Et si la crise sécuritaire du Sahel était aussi (voire avant tout) économique ?”
It has been three months since Nigeria closed its land borders and to date there are few indications as to when they will open again. The country said it wants to reduce the smuggling of goods and stop illegal inflows of Asian rice and outflows of subsidised fuel. More fundamentally, Nigerian authorities justify the closure by the need to support the domestic agricultural sector and accelerate national productivity growth.
Pick up any newspaper or switch on any TV in Europe over the past five years and you might think that the entire population of Africa is on the move – and heading across the Mediterranean. Images of young men travelling in boats in search of protection and a better life for themselves and their families have become a staple part of the media diet, with the so-called ‘migration crisis’ dominating political debates within the European Union and beyond. The use of development assistance to leverage co-operation and compliance from African countries in limiting migration flows has, in turn, become an increasingly important focus of policy efforts.
But these representations and the policies with which they have come to be associated reflect long-standing biases in how we think about migration in the African context.
Africans make up 12% of the world’s population but only 2.5% of the world’s passengers. Why the gap?
Africa has 731 airports and 419 airlines with an aviation industry that supports around 6.9 million jobs and USD 80 billion in economic activity. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Africa is set to become one of the fastest growing aviation regions in the next 20 years with an annual expansion of nearly 5%. While it is evident that aviation in Africa has the potential to fuel economic growth, several barriers exist. Weak infrastructure, high ticket prices, poor connectivity and lack of liberalisation rank amongst the many challenges.
Consider the reality: Airport infrastructure in most African countries is outdated and not built to serve the growing volume of passengers or cargo. Airlines and airports are often managed by government entities or regulatory bodies. Foreign investment is discouraged. In Malawi, for example, it’s illegal for a foreign airline or private investor to own more than 49% of a national airline. So, this prevented Ethiopian Airlines from purchasing more than a 49% stake in Malawian Airlines. Continue reading “Unlocking Africa’s Aviation Potential”
Africa has an opportunity to show leadership on the world stage through strength in unity, as the rest of the world retreats from multilateralism and increases protectionism. For the first time in recent history, with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Africa could wholly embrace intra-African relations, global trade, structural transformation and sustainable development. But for the agreement to succeed, businesses, which make up the backbone of the deal, need to be aware of their potential gains and be actively involved in its implementation, working alongside governments and regional institutions that are ultimately responsible for speeding up the process.
The challenges to African trade have been immense: Africa only represents 2.4% of total global exports. Intra-African trade only represents 15% of total African exports (compared to 58% and 67% for Asia and Europe, respectively), even if the regions of Eastern and Southern Africa are outperforming Central Africa.
At the OECD’s origin, we find the 1947 Marshall Plan that re-industrialised a war-torn Europe. At the very core of the Marshall Plan was a profound understanding of the relationship between a nation’s economic structure and its carrying capacity in terms of population density. We argue that it is necessary to rediscover this theoretical understanding now, in the mutual interest of Africa and Europe.
In early 1947, worries grew in Washington that an impoverished Germany – where manufacturing industry had been forbidden under the Morgenthau Plan – would fall an easy prey to the Soviet Union. US President Truman therefore sent former president Herbert Hoover on a fact-finding mission to Germany. One powerful sentence in Hoover’s Report of March 18 that year zeroed in on the basic problem:
‘’There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a ‘pastoral state’. It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25.000.000 out of it’.1
Hoover understood that the population density of a country is determined by its economic structure: Industrialisation makes it possible to dramatically increase the population carrying capacity of a nation. ‘Exterminate’ was an extremely strong word to use after the horrors of World War II, and everyone understood that there was no place where 25 million Germans could be sent: Re-industrialisation was the only option. Continue reading “Africa: Time to Rediscover the Economics of Population Density and Development”