Stories tagged: Africa Progress Panel

Africa’s rapid growth is at risk from rising inequality

Last week saw the release of the 2012 Africa Progress Report, the annual report from the Africa Progress Panel. The report warns that Africa’s strong economic growth rate – which is expected to grow   beyond 5% over the next two years – is at risk from rising inequality and the marginalization of whole sections of society.

Despite Africa having seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and 70% of Africa’s population living in countries that have averaged economic growth rates in excess of 4% over the last decade,  most African countries are still not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for 2015. As the report highlights, slow areas of progress include child nutrition, child survival, maternal health, and education.

Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, states in the report that:

“With the 2012 deadline for the MDGs fast approaching, we urge every government in Africa to draw up a plan of action for a “big push” towards the targets.”

The Panel’s report identifies a range of challenges demanding urgent action from governments, including:

Youth employment: Africa youth population (15-24 year olds) will rise from 133 million at the start of the century to 246 million by 2020, requiring a further 74 million jobs over the next decade just to prevent you unemployment from rising. The report sets out an agenda for raising skills and generating rural jobs through off-farm employment.

Smallholder agriculture: Addressing the urgent need to raise the productivity of smallholder agriculture, the report cautions that Africa will remain vulnerable to a food security crisis. It highlights ‘land grabs’ by foreign investors and speculators as an urgent threat and urges African government to consider stronger regulation.

Global economic governance and aid: The report highlights that Africa has little voice in the areas of trade, finance and development assistance and adds that aid remains crucial and African governments and development partners must delver on their commitments.

The report uses an array of visuals to help convey the key messages. This includes infographics to show political, economic and social successes and setback for Africa. The overall message though is positive, and as Kofi Anan says:

 “Africa is on its way to becoming a preferred investment destination, a potential pole of economic growth, and a place of immense innovation and creativity. But there is also a long way to go – and Africa’s governments must as a matter of urgency turn their attention to those who are being left behind.”

A number of recommendations and policy actions are made for key priority areas, which include MDGS, agriculture and food security, education and skills, good governance and democracy, jobs, growth and trade, and resource mobilizations.

In the case of agriculture and food security, the overarching message is to put smallholder farmers and agriculture productivity at the centre of national food security and nutrition strategies, with a focus on women farmers. This resonates Farming First’s recommendations for policymakers in its Policy Papers on Nutrition Security and Rural Women. As we approach the G8 summit on May 18th and 19th, the report calls on leaders to renew and intensify their commitments to improving food security and nutrition in Africa.

A number of videos can also be seen online, which discuss the 2012 Africa Progress Panel Report.

Read more about agriculture and the MDGS on Farming First’s website.

The Role of Subsidies in Raising Agricultural Growth in Africa

Screen shot 2011-01-25 at 15.12.28In October 2010, the Africa Progress Panel Secretariat launched a policy brief ‘Raising agricultural productivity in Africa: Options for action, and the role of subsidies’. The report takes specific country circumstances to offer the key issues and lessons that African governments can take to deal with their individual country situation.

The main messages of the report are as follows:

  • African agriculture was often neglected by most governments and donors in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2010, there is renewed commitment to agriculture with the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and the Maputo declaration of 2003.
  • To boost productivity, there needs to be favourable environment for investment and governments need to invest more in public goods such as rural roads, agricultural research and extension services, and rural schooling, clean water and health care.
  • Often in rural Africa farmers cannot get access to credit, insurance and inputs. These can be severe and leave smallholder farmers in a poverty trap from which they struggle to escape, even when the technology to allow them to produce more exists. These market failures may be overcome 
by institutional innovation, but in some cases stronger state intervention may be needed —including the use of input subsidies.
  • Subsidies can help overcome poor farmers’ inability to obtain credit or take risks, to allow farmers to learn about inputs, and to develop input supply to levels where scale economies are captured. They can also be justified on grounds of equity, to overcome soil degradation and improve soil quality in the case of fertiliser, and to stimulate production to reduce the cost of food.
  • On the other hand subsidies can be costly, with costs rising over time, difficult to remove, badly targeted so that richer farmers get much of the benefit, and can undermine the development of commercial channels. Moreover, there are alternatives to subsidies, as Kenya’s experience of liberalised fertiliser distribution shows.
  • Much depends upon local circumstances – whether rural financial and input markets are robust or not functioning at all, for example poverty levels among farming households, and productivity levels for staple goods. Decision-makers need
 to be clear on the objectives pursued in using subsidies and consider alternative and complementary ways to achieving them. They also need to be aware of the potential pitfalls.
  • Where subsidies are used, they need to be ‘smart’: targeted to those who need them, limited in time, and designed to enhance commercial distribution rather than supplant it. Complementary investments in transport and input dealer training can reinforce these programmes and make it easier to reduce or
 remove subsidies in the future.

This report is a collaboration between Africa Progress Panel and Future Agriculture Consortium. The main authors are Steve Wiggins and Henri Leturque from Overseas Development Institute.