African Development Week: Country profiles to inform high level decision-making

by Jill De Villiers 223 views0

Giovanie Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary for Knowledge Delivery, UNECA. Photo: Jill de Villiers

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) launched the second generation of its country profiles at African Development Week. This year 21 reports were produced, on top of last year’s 20 reports, bringing the total to 41. The reports offer a snapshot of economic and social development in each of the countries profiled and provide recommendations to decision-makers from national and regional institutions to address the challenges they face.

Giovanie Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary for Knowledge Delivery, UNECA says: “The country profiles allow us to build a bridge between the work that we do on continental level, at a sub-regional and then at a country level. The focus of the analysis is on social and economic transformation.”

While acting as a diagnostic tool, the profiles provide a vehicle for the ECA to engage with member states on critical issues of economic development that drive structural transformation.

Overall, the ECA worked with the African Centre of Statistics, with specific contributions being provided by the Macroeconomic Policy Division, the Regional Integration and Trade Division as well as the Social Development and Policy Division. There was also close cooperation with the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank, on issue of continental integration.

The South African profile, for example, was completed with input from Statistics South Africa, the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank. For the Nigerian profile, a significant contribution was made by Joe Amoako-Tuffour, Senior Advisor and Director of Research at the African Centre for Economic Transformation. Data provided by the Bank of Central African States contributed to the profile on the Central African Republic.

Sources of data and statistics

“The sources of data and statistics used for all indicators are national, so that the ECA can work with them to identify gaps – whether they are systemic, institutional or infrastructural. This also gives the country involved the opportunity to own the narrative developed in the profile,” explains Biha. “The profiles also enable the ECA to evaluate a country’s commitment to integration and to assess the extent to which it meets its commitments.”

The core of the analysis in the country profiles is to look at policy challenges related to structural and economic transformation.

“The issue of structural and economic transformation is complex, difficult and long-term issue. A number of countries are really committed to long-term development and planning. There are very clear objectives for low income countries to become middle income countries,” Biha elaborates.

While a number of countries have achieved high growth rates, this was mainly through commodities, and the growth rates had no impact on inclusivity, or economic transformation and diversification.

The matter of demographic dividend was also widely discussed at the conference. “Across the countries that we have looked at, not many of them have crossed the path of demographic transition. I think there are only about three or four countries that can really talk about demographic transition,” Biha says.

Many voices bring change

Youth unemployment cuts across all 41 countries that were analysed for the profiles. “The issues are not new. What we are really pushing through this analysis is for the right policies and ensuring that there is a dialogue around those policies, and that those policies are being implemented. And that we are not the only voice. Many voices actually bring the change.”

Biha says the country profiles has strengthened the evidence-based policy engagement and dialogue between the ECA and its member states, and are “easy to read and accessible to a large group of ECA’s constituencies.”

The first set of 20 profiles were originally designed in 2015 in accordance with Resolution 917 of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (meeting in Abuja in 2014), with the aim to provide African decision-makers with an independent analysis of their countries’ economic and social development including the progress made to achieve regional integration.

Innovations in reporting

They include various innovations such as: the African Social Development Index (ASDI), which measures human exclusion in six key dimensions of wellbeing throughout the life cycle (survival, health, education, employment, means of subsistence and the capacity to live a decent life after the age of 60), the African Gender and Development Index (AGDI) and the African Regional Integration Index based on the five pillars of regional integration – trade integration, regional infrastructure, productive integration, free movement of people & financial and macroeconomic integration.

The countries covered in the 2016 Country Profiles are Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Chad, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland and Tunisia.

Angola needs economic diversification

The overview in the report for Angola for example, explains that the pace of economic growth remained subdued in 2016, with a projected rate of 3.0 per cent as it was strongly affected by low oil prices in the world markets.

“Diversification of the economy is a crucial step to ensure sustainable growth,” the overview concludes. “The country’s efforts to bring structural transformation currently focus on modernizing and constructing infrastructure, spanning from transport networks, energy and water facilities to telecommunications. Ensuring sustainable funding, attracting investor and raising competitiveness are among the greatest challenges of the State. Simultaneously, guaranteeing positive social spill-overs should be another focus area of the policy makers.”

Mix of energy sources recommended for Nigeria

The profile on Nigeria places emphasis on the power crisis that has been plaguing the country for the past two decades, restraining structural transformation of the economy. It is crucial to scale up both public and private investment in the electricity sector.

This depends on strong input from the government, including a clear regulatory framework, investment in human capacity through the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria, and the development of public private partnerships.

The report recommends that Nigeria should reinforce its effort to establish a market-oriented policy aimed at promoting a secure, competitive and reasonably priced energy supply and policies that enhance the reliability and sustainability of the power system and encourage equipment and technology acquisition.

The country will also benefit from investment in a diversified mix of energy sources through incentive policies.

Major policy challenges for South Africa

South Africa faces high unemployment, and has to overcome the challenge of deep inequality to sustain socio-economic gains achieved since 1994. The richest 10 per cent of household controls over half of the national income.

The Gini coefficient shows inequality increased from 0.64 in 1995 to 0.69 in 2005 and then decreased again to 0.63 in 2011. The gender equality index was 0.461 in 2013 and the multidimensional poverty index was 0.041 in 2012 – one of the lowest in the sub region. The country ranks fourth in the sub-region in the human development index, falling in the medium human development category with a score of 0.658 in 2013 (UNDP, 2014).

Globally, South Africa was ranked 118th out of 187 countries in the same period. It is important for the country to strengthen its efforts at building social cohesion.