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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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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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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We must act now to stop the COVID crisis from undermining Africa’s energy future

By Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

We must act now to stop the Covid crisis from undermining Africa’s energy future

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause major disruptions to societies and economies around the world, and has dealt a worrying blow to years of hard-won progress in reducing the number of people in Africa who lack access to electricity. For seven years in a row, the number of Africans living without electricity has steadily decreased, thanks to efforts from governments, businesses and civil society. But this year, it is set to rise by 13 million amid the turmoil brought by the pandemic, according to IEA analysis. The worst effects are being felt in countries such as Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger. By putting energy services out of reach of more and more people, the crisis threatens to deepen their difficulties and those of economies across Africa.

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Africa state of the climate report: an urgent call for climate-related development planning

By Blair Trewin, Lead Author of the World Meteorological Organization’s 2019 State of the Climate report for Africa

Tropical Cyclone Idai approaching the Mozambique coast on 14 March 2019 (Source: NASA)

Africa is highly vulnerable to the influence of the climate. The continent contains many of the world’s least developed countries, who have limited capacity to mitigate against the impacts of extreme events. The continent is also highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture which is at the mercy of fluctuations in rainfall from season to season. Amongst the most vulnerable areas are the semi-arid regions of the Sahel and the Greater Horn of Africa; many of these regions also suffer from unstable security situations, and in the worst cases, drought and conflict can combine to trigger famine, as in Somalia in 2011-12.

Like the rest of the world, Africa is warming. 2019 was likely the third-warmest year on record for the continent, after 2010 and 2016. Over the last 30 years, the continent has been warming at a rate of 0.3 °C to 0.4 °C per decade, a similar rate to the global average for land areas. 2019 was an especially warm year in southern Africa, where parts of South Africa, Namibia and Angola had temperatures more than 2 °C above the 1981-2010 average.

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L’Afrique pense par elle-même son développement

Par Firmin Edouard Matoko, Sous-directeur général, Priorité Afrique et Relations extérieures


Ce blog fait partie d’une série qui invite acteurs et penseurs à renouveler le discours actuel sur l’Afrique et son développement.

Les africains ont aujourd’hui plusieurs certitudes quant au futur de leur continent: celui-ci regorge de richesses naturelles (« un scandale de la nature » disent certains) ; il est culturellement riche et abonde de ressources humaines talentueuses. Enfin, après des décennies d’enfermement idéologique et d’injustice épistémique, l’Afrique est désormais capable de penser par elle-même et d’écrire son avenir[1].

La réalité d’une Afrique riche en ressources naturelles mais non encore totalement exploitées a été le fil conducteur des stratégies de développement post-indépendances d’inspiration classique ou libérale. Deux économistes africains, l’égyptien Samir Amin et le zimbabwéen Thandika Mkandawire se distinguent très vite par leurs analyses sur les conditions inégales de développement des pays africains et en se situant dans un schéma de rupture anticolonial. Dans un sens, on peut situer à travers les thèses de ces deux précurseurs le point de départ d’une pensée africaine du développement. D’ailleurs, la création en 1973 du CODESRIA dont les deux éminents économistes suscités furent secrétaires exécutifs avait pour objectif de « développer des capacités et des outils scientifiques susceptibles de promouvoir la cohésion, le bien-être et le progrès des sociétés africaines. Ceci passait évidemment par l’émergence d’une communauté panafricaine de chercheurs actifs, la protection de leur liberté intellectuelle et de leur autonomie dans l’accomplissement de leur mission et l’élimination des barrières linguistiques, disciplinaires, régionales, de genre et entre les générations ».

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