Our Perspective

Africa: beyond growth | Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

15 Sep 2015


Sub-Saharan Africa has been growing faster than most regions. A third of all countries on the continent grew by 6 percent between 2012 and 2013. The Democratic Republic of Congo, once considered an economic failure, posted 9 percent growth in 2014. Nowadays, even China would envy such a rate. But GDP growth says very little about people’s well-being, or how sustainable a country’s economic expansion can be. In fact, Africa faces a number of serious structural issues, suggesting there should be a fundamental rethink about the way its economies operate. There is widespread unemployment – as high as 48 percent in South Africa. Around 41 percent of the population still lives in poverty. And Africa has the highest level of inequality after Latin America. What kind of growth can reduce poverty and inequality, but benefit everyone at the same time? Many economies in Africa are pinning their hopes on extractive industries. Though an important source of economic oxygen, these are famous for producing few jobs, isolating other sectors of the economy and concentrating wealth in the hands of a few. Africa needs to nurture the sectors where a majority of poor people earn their living. Agriculture, which employs 65 percent of  Read More

How to ensure large infrastructure projects enhance people's health | by Benjamin Ofosu-Koranteng

10 Sep 2015

image Construction workers clearing land in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: UNDP.

Infrastructure is central to Africa’s growth and its integration with the global economy, but according to the African Development Bank, the continent faces an annual funding shortfall of USD 96 billion. Closing this gap is critical if the continent is to reach its full potential, boost the creation of jobs and eliminate poverty. However, there are huge social and environmental costs associated with large infrastructure projects. Construction sites attract large numbers of workers, particularly men, for long periods, far away from their homes. The workers’ close living quarters are potential drivers of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. Workers often spend their income on alcohol and sex in nearby communities, increasing the possible spread of HIV through unprotected sex and other diseases. Poor sanitation and water management and workers’ limited access to healthcare further drives up the incidence of malaria. As African countries embark on large infrastructure projects including those in the extractive sector, it is critical that they also take into account their impact on the health of workers and nearby communities. Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (EIA) are legally required in almost all African countries. They aim to mitigate the negative consequences of such projects on people and the environment.   Read More

Learning from adaptation experience means breaking down the context | by Jennifer Baumwoll

07 Sep 2015

image In Tarrafal, Cabo Verde, Ms. Maria “Katy” Zaidy Soares Barbosa is one of the farmers working with extension workers to apply the agricultural research. Photo: UNDP/Jennifer Baumwoll

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their perspective on issues of climate change, in the lead up to COP21 in December. When it comes to climate change adaptation, it is often said that we must identify the lessons learned and share these lessons with other practitioners. Given the enormous challenge posed by climate change, we must constantly ask ourselves: how can we replicate or scale up what works? And yet, adaptation couldn’t be more context specific. What I’ve learned from working with adaptation initiatives across the world is that not only are adaptation priorities different—from agricultural and water management to health and tourism—but measures that work in one location often will not work in another. For example, both Cabo Verde and Niger are dealing with water shortages, but the reservoir and water canal systems being built on a mountainous island in Cabo Verde are not feasible in the savannahs of Niger. To complicate things further, adaptation is fundamentally a question of behavioral and social change, both of which are deeply rooted in specific cultural values and practices. In Cabo Verde, researchers from the National Institute for Agricultural Research and Development explained to me that they were finding it  Read More

Africa: Halfway Through its Glorious Thirty Years | by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

11 Aug 2015


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, with its growth rate 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 or 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 bring to scale the achievements of the last fifteen years, focusing on five crucial dynamics.   First, Africa urgently needs to close, and even eliminate, the gender gap. The continent is losing on average $73bn – around 4 percent of its GDP -- every year because women are being excluded from development and politics. Ending that exclusion would also allow  Read More

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda: A step forward on financing for development? |Gail Hurley

29 Jul 2015


The Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) lays out the steps the international community promises to take to fund the world’s new sustainable development agenda – to be agreed in New York in September. This new document must also chart a path for how we can address the challenges which have emerged – or become more pronounced – since the 2002 Monterrey Consensus (PDF), such as climate change, accelerated environmental degradation and inequality. So did we get our ‘Monterrey Plus’ in Addis Ababa? As with all international processes, the outcome is stronger in some areas than in others. On the plus side, there is a commitment to a new ‘social compact’ in which countries commit to set up social protection systems, with national spending targets for essential services like health and education. If countries cannot funds these through domestic resources, the international community pledges to provide international assistance. Countries also agreed to work together to fund infrastructure for energy, transport, and water and sanitation, as well as step-up investments in agriculture and nutrition. There was also a commitment to establish a ‘facilitation mechanism’ to promote innovation and scientific cooperation, identify technology needs and gaps, and support capacity building on technology. The special  Read More

The gender gap in extractive dependent countries | Degol Hailu

28 Jul 2015


Can we use the revenues generated from oil, gas and minerals to reduce the gender gap in countries with abundant natural resources? We found a statistically significant negative correlation between our Extractives Dependence Index (EDI) that ranks countries on their dependence on the extractive sector (where 0 equals no dependence and 100 equals highest dependence) and the Global Gender Gap Index (where 1 equals equality and 0 equals inequality). The Global Gender Gap Index for countries with the highest dependence on the extractive sector is 0.60 while it is 0.70 for the lowest dependent countries. We further examined the difference between women and men in leadership positions and employment. In countries with high dependence on extractives, women make up 8.7% of ministerial level positions; they take up 9.5% of seats in national parliaments and hold 18.4% of senior and managerial positions. In countries with low dependence on extractives, the numbers are almost twice as high at 16.9%, 17.9% and 32.7%, respectively. In high extractive dependent countries, the average unemployment rate for women is 15% and 8% for men. In the low extractive dependent countries, there is parity in a bad outcome; the unemployment rates are 8% for women and 7% for  Read More

A sidelined youth: The soft underbelly of ‘Africa rising’ | Mo Yahya

16 Jul 2015


Africa is experiencing a period of exceptional economic performance, but impressive growth rates are not yet translating into higher human development for all. Put simply, the growth is not inclusive. A key obstacle to Africa's long-term prosperity, productivity and stability is the crisis facing the continent’s youth. Young people in Africa are economically, socially and politically marginalized. This failure to deliver for a growing and restless youth is the soft underbelly of the “Africa rising” narrative. The lack of opportunity for many of Africa’s youth is manifested in three ways: Unemployment: Africa’s transformative agenda is threatened by high level of unemployment, particularly among the youth. The situation is compounded by an increasing mismatch between the skills workers offer and those demanded by the labour market. This points to the fast pace of technological progress causing disruptions in the labour market, but also to education systems that produce unemployable graduates. Migration: The recent horrifying incidents of mass drowning of young Africans in the Mediterranean Sea is a vivid testimony of their loss of confidence in the ability of the continent to deliver for them. In 2000, about 13% of international migrants, 22.8 million people, originated from Africa. In 2013, the numbers had  Read More

Seven things to consider when managing non-renewable natural resources

19 Mar 2015


Natural resource wealth offers enormous potential for achieving development goals. But without effective management, the wealth can be squandered. UNDP works with governments, the private sector and civil society to minimize the risks associated with building an oil, gas and mineral economy and optimize the benefits. Here are seven tips on how the development impact of these finite resources can be enhanced. Know your wealth. Most of the oil, gas and mineral resources in developing countries are yet to be discovered. Consequently, foreign companies that carry out exploration activities have pertinent geological information before governments do, creating bargaining asymmetry during contract negotiations. As the African Mining Vision notes, governments need to fully know their resource wealth to be able to negotiate as equals. Establish comprehensive legal frameworks. Several contracts and mining codes have been revised in recent years, usually when governments realize, sometimes under pressure from civil society, that tax rates are low, environmental protection is weak and re-settlement schemes are inadequate. Participatory and consultative measures are indispensable when drafting key legislation. Maximize revenues for development. The income earned from taxing resource extraction can be low, first, because of weak contract negotiating capacity, and second, due to lack of transparency and  Read More

Development for the people, by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

11 Dec 2014

image A laundry basket vendor on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia (Photo: Carly Learson/UNDP)

If the Ebola outbreak is not contained soon, most of the economic and social gains achieved since peace was restored in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and since Guinea’s democratic transition began, could be reversed. In Liberia, 60% of markets are now closed; in Sierra Leone, only one-fifth of the 10,000 HIV patients who are on anti-retroviral treatments are still receiving them; and Guinea’s government is reporting a $220 million financing gap because of the crisis. All three countries remain fragile, divided, and, as the current crisis highlights, uniquely prone to shocks. More broadly, the region’s current crisis should inspire reflection about how the world supports and advances development. One important reason for these countries’ vulnerability is the consistent lack of investment in their populations, which has prevented ordinary citizens from reaping the benefits of economic growth. The threat that Ebola poses in all three countries extends beyond health care. Throughout the region, a history of conflict and a legacy of poor governance have fueled a deep distrust of governments and state institutions, as indicated in a 2012 Afrobarometer survey. Indeed, these countries’ lack of an established social contract has been the main obstacle to establishing political authority and effective governance. With  Read More

Innovation: The new currency for emergence in Africa | By Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

03 Nov 2014


Across Africa, many nations are aspiring to become emerging countries. Beyond growth, they want to transform and diversify their economies, rapidly improve the standards of living of their people, and assert internationally their economic and political clout. As participants in the African Economic Conference, which concluded today, observed, innovation is necessary to achieving that objective. Why? First, because high economic growth rates over the long run can only be sustained with innovation. With diminishing returns, jobs and livelihoods will only continue to grow if more productive sectors are sought. And only innovation – understood as the application of new and existing knowledge to improve processes – can do that systematically. For instance, when irrigation and fertilizer use improved in Asia in the 1960s, there was initially little gain in agricultural productivity because crops were growing bigger and leafier, but yields didn’t increase. However, with the help of science and technology, Asia eventually experienced the Green Revolution. Despite impressive efforts in countries like Ethiopia – which established an Agricultural Transformation Agency that is improving farming practices – a similar breakthrough is needed at the continental level. Boosting agricultural productivity will require adopting new practices. Innovation also matters in the delivery of social  Read More

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