Our Perspectives


Africa, midway through its "Glorious Thirty"

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des vendeuses dans un marché en RDCAfrica's economic prospects are bright, but the continent loses about 4 percent of its GDP each year due to the exclusion of women from business and politics. Photo: Aziza Bangwene/UNDP in DRC

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only place in the world where living standards stagnated and even declined throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
 
But things are now very different. Africa’s prospects began to change radically in the late 1990s, and its growth rate has remained close to five percent per year ever since.
 
Africa has made concomitant gains in the social sphere. It has made remarkable progress on primary education, child mortality, slowing down HIV and Aids and increasing the numbers of women in parliament.
 
These trends are encouraging but transformation of Africa’s economies and harmonious, balanced development are still a long shot away.

By 2030, however, when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) come to an end, it may be possible to say that Africa has concluded its Glorious Thirty Years. To fulfill that vision, the continent would have to consolidate and scale up the achievements of the last fifteen years, focusing on five crucial dynamics.
 
First, Africa urgently needs to narrow, and even eliminate, the gender gap. The continent is losing on average US$73 billion – around 4 percent of its GDP -- every year because women are being excluded from development and politics. Ending that exclusion would also allow them to participate in and benefit from the economy.
 
Second, Africa is losing on average $60 billion per year in illicit financial outflows. The problem can only be effectively addressed if measures are put into place to strengthen the rule of law and bolster international cooperation.
 
Third, Africa isn’t mobilizing enough resources domestically. Boosting Africa’s ability to collect taxes is essential for enabling governments to develop their fiscal space.  
 
Fourth, Africa accounted for only 3.5 percent of world merchandise exports in 2012, and that position is strategically fragile. In order to become a meaningful player in the international economy and to boost its development, Africa will need to participate more effectively in the global production of goods and services.
 
Finally, sustaining growth and development will be impossible unless nations and communities can anticipate, shape and adapt to the many shocks and challenges they face. Investing now in prevention and preparedness for all hazards, natural and man-made, public health or energy, will minimize risk and future costs.
 
The launch of the Millennium Development Goals marked the beginning of a new era in Africa’s development and the continent heeded that call. The post-2015 global development agenda, in turn, offers the continent a fresh new chance to eliminate poverty, exclusion and inequality.

Africa’s Glorious Thirty Years are within reach. It is now time for all of its citizens to commit themselves to making that project a reality.

A longer version of this post was published in French on Le Monde.

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