Foresight Africa: Top priorities for the continent in 2017
2017 holds promise for Africa. Despite the troubles of 2016 – political turmoil in the Gambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, continuing violence in South Sudan and Nigeria, drought in southern Africa, low commodity prices, and lowered growth outlooks – I enter 2017 with a positive attitude.
So many of these serious challenges are those which Africa has weathered before and come out stronger for it. Peaceful transitions, such as in Ghana, provide examples of good governance and respect for the rule of law. Regional actors are creating African solutions to African problems in both the security and infrastructure realms, among others. Commodity-reliant countries are looking to diversify while the others are taking advantage of low oil prices.
In this year’s Foresight Africa, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative scholars and outside experts explore six overarching themes that provide opportunities for Africa to overcome its obstacles to spur fruitful and inclusive growth. These six interconnected, crossing-cutting themes demonstrate the prospects for Africa’s success for its policymakers, businessmen and women, and all its citizens. By examining such closely intertwined issues, we hope to bring a holistic view of the continent, emphasizing that with each challenge there is a solution, though it might not be found where we expect it to be.
Sub-Saharan Africa – especially its oil-exporting economies – has seen many credit downgrades and lowered growth outlooks in 2016, raising the importance of financing for development even higher. In Chapter 1, our authors explore several different mechanisms for financing development agendas as well as arguments for increased domestic revenue mobilization and economic diversification.
Growth will not be possible in Africa without jobs. Given the looming population boom, Africa must adapt not only through job creation, but also through skills development and support in both forgotten and frontier sectors. In the second chapter, our authors discuss not only the job prospects for Africans going into 2017, but new ways to think about job creation.
Essential to any modern economy is technology. In many ways, especially when it comes to financial inclusion, Africa is at the forefront.
In addition, innovations are creating opportunities unheard of in other parts of the world – though accessibility to many advancements remains somewhat limited. In this chapter, our authors discuss how obstacles to innovation can be overcome in order for Africa to reach its full potential.
For the second year in a row, our contributors cover the increasingly important topic of urbanization. In the follow up from Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda, policymakers agree that smart urban planning is a requirement for successful development. This type of planning is challenging, though, as it requires an awareness of energy needs, transportation possibilities, pollution potential, safety, informal settlements, and affordability, among many other aspects.
In no other area of global governance has Africa shown a more united front than in the fight against climate change. Africa is expected to bear the brunt of the destructive effects, and the region’s high poverty rate means that the poor will suffer the most. In this chapter, our authors offer thoughts to both the national and international communities on policies for combating climate change in light of Africa’s unique circumstances.
To tie everything together, of course, are the policymakers, who have the power to create incentives for job creation, enact laws to combat climate change, create appropriate regulatory environments for innovation, and stabilize the macroeconomic environment. However, as our authors argue, without good governance and respect for the rule of law, countries and their citizens must fight an even-more uphill battle towards inclusive growth.
With this iteration of Foresight Africa, we aim to capture the top priorities for Africa in 2017, offering recommendations for African and international stakeholders for creating and supporting a strong, sustainable, and successful Africa. In doing so, we hope that Foresight Africa 2017 will promote a dialogue on the key issues influencing economic development in Africa in 2017 and ultimately provide sound strategies for sustaining and expanding the benefits of economic growth to all people of Africa in the years ahead.
Over the course of the year, we will incorporate the feedback we will receive from our readers and continue the debate on Africa’s priorities through a series of events, research reports, and blog posts.
The Foresight Africa project is a series of reports, commentaries and events that aim to help policymakers and Africa watchers stay ahead of the trends and developments impacting the continent. Since 2011, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative has used the occasion of the new year to assess Africa’s top priorities for the year.