2014 Africa Progress Report

APR2014_coverReleased today, the 2014 Africa Progress Report, Grain, fish, money. Financing Africa’s green and blue revolutions, discusses agriculture, fisheries and finance, outlining reasons for optimism but also some of the priorities and barriers to Africa’s development.

The Africa Progress Panel (APP), chaired by Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel laureate, consists of ten individuals across the public and private sectors who advocate for equitable and sustainable development for Africa. The annual Africa Progress Report, published every year in May, utilises the best research and analysis available on Africa to make viable, policy recommendations for African policy makers, international partners and civil society organisations.

Many African countries have seen significant economic development and transformation in the last few decades and incomes are set to double in the next 22 years. Senegal, for example, has gone from a debt crisis to selling sovereign debt on eurobond markets in ten years. But this economic growth is slow to trickle down to the many rural-dwelling Africans whose livelihoods are still precarious. In west Senegal, ongoing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by commercial fleets from other countries has left fish stocks dwindling, affecting tens of thousands of artisanal fishermen. As the report states this is just one example of the growing divide between the few who can benefit from Africa’s rising economic prosperity and the large number of people chronically poor and hungry.

On the one hand, the report states, the political and economic landscape of Africa is changing: exports and foreign investment are increasing while dependence on aid is declining. Democracy, transparency and accountability are entering into the language of policymakers more and more. But poverty and hunger are still enormous challenges and progress in making economic growth both wide-ranging and sustainable has, so far, fallen short. For Africa, as the report states, “the time has come to set a course towards more inclusive growth and fairer societies.”

In order to translate some of the economic growth to improving people’s wellbeing and livelihoods, Africa’s policymakers must focus on developing the continents farming and fishing industries, those economic sectors employing and supporting the majority of the Africa population. Smallholder farmers receive relatively little support from the government. As the report states, “Agriculture remains the Achilles’ heel of Africa’s development success story.” Subject to conflicting and sometimes damaging development initiatives, African farmers have some of the lowest levels of access to productive resources, markets and technologies in the world. As such agricultural productivity is very low. As has been seen in many developed and emerging economies an agricultural revolution is essential to overall growth and poverty eradication. Africa, as the report goes on to say, needs its own Green Revolution, one designed for the African continent. In particular increasing access to technologies such as drought-resistant varieties and tackling policy and market failures, which prevent farmers from increasing their productivity and incomes. [Read more…]