Building capacity to help Africa trade better

What are the top 5 challenges Africa is facing?


What are the top 5 challenges Africa is facing?

Tarik Oguz, tralac Research Advisor – ICT, discusses the challenges facing African countries today and what needs to be done in order to address them

We observed another Africa Month in May with continent-wide celebrations on the 25th of May – Africa Day, which has a very important symbolic meaning.

Six years after the independence of Ghana from the United Kingdom (6th March 1957), which marked the beginning of the end of the colonial era of Africa, 32 countries met in Addis Ababa and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed on 25th May 1963.

The purpose of the OAU was to “promote unity and solidarity amongst African states” and “to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonisation and apartheid”. “May this convention of union last 1,000 years” said the then Emperor Halie Selassie[1] at the closing ceremony.

The OAU initiated the transformation of Africa, to engage the rest of the world as a group of independent, developing countries. Thirty-eight years later, the OAU, was dissolved on 26th May 2001 and the member countries formed the African Union (AU). The AU has launched many initiatives, including Second Decade of Education for Africa (SDEA), Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa (AIDA), Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT), Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) initiative, and very importantly, Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want[2].

People who were born in 1963 in Africa, had an average life expectancy of under 45 years. Sadly, the majority of African citizens who were born in 1963 or before, are not able to witness how far the continent has progressed and its ambitious goals for the future.

Based on 2016 statistics; life expectancy is 59 years for males and 62 years for females. Even though this is seemingly impressive progress; Africa, on average, is behind most other regions of the world in improving this statistic.

The AU now has a clear set of goals to be achieved by 2063. Collaborating with the United Nations (UN) and synchronised with its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agenda 2063 sets measurable targets that will be monitored regularly.

The fundamental list of aspirations with unanimous agreement of all member countries (also published in this document) is as follows:


  1. A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development

  2. An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance

  3. An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law

  4. A peaceful and secure Africa

  5. An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics

  6. An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth

  7. Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner.

Source: African Union, Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want (August 2014)

Africa faces significant challenges in reaching these goals

Below are some of the important issues that we, as African People, need to work on collectively, in a proactive manner, to achieve inclusive growth, social and economic development (in alphabetical order):

  • Agricultural development (food security)

  • Crime and violence (including domestic violence)

  • Environmental sustainability and climate change initiatives

  • Equal opportunity for all (social, racial, religious)

  • Facilitation and effective regulation of trade-in-goods and trade-in-services (addressing tariff and non-tariff barriers, regulatory obstacles)

  • Financial market governance and regulation

  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) generation and management

  • Gender equality

  • Good public sector governance (efficiency, efficacy and financial management of government services, reforming fiscal system – cutting red tape; effective regulatory governance)

  • Health services; communicable/non-communicable disease management; HIV/AIDS

  • High quality education for all (including digital literacy)

  • Infrastructure for

    • Transport (roads, railways, ports)

    • Energy (renewable sources)

    • Water and sanitation

    • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

  • Job creation

  • Labour regulation

  • Law and justice system

  • Natural resource management

  • Peaceful negotiation of conflicts (elimination of armed conflicts and forced movement of people)

  • Poverty reduction

  • Practical regional integration agenda – with emphasis on effective implementation

  • Private sector development (especially micro, small and medium enterprises)

  • Public-private-partnerships

  • Rural development

  • Social security and assistance

  • Terrorism threat

  • Urban development (smart cities)

Improvements in these issues will contribute to more inclusive economic growth, achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) and assist Africa to pay a key role in the global economy, as well as its governance structures.

Let us know what you think Africa’s top 5 challenges are (from the above list) – click here:


You can also vote in our Twitter poll running this week (5-9 June 2017).


[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/may/25/newsid_2502000/2502771.stm

[2] www.un.org/en/africa/osaa/pdf/au/agenda2063.pdf



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