African Union PassportEconomic development does not occur in isolation, and neither does the end of extreme poverty. Instead of working individually, African nations are uniting to find ways to improve Africa’s economy and lower poverty rates. Their latest attempt involves the deployment of the African Union Passport, which allows African citizens to travel freely throughout the continent.

Extreme Poverty Crisis

Africa is the world’s second-fastest-growing economic region. Economic growth usually leads to higher employment levels and overall standards of living. Despite recent improvements in Africa’s economy, extreme poverty levels have not decreased as expected. Instead, they have continued to rise. With an average poverty rate of 41 percent, sub-Saharan Africa is the region suffering the most from extreme poverty. The World Bank Group concluded that most of the global poor reside in sub-Saharan Africa. This region is made up of almost all the African countries except Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.

Despite a growing economy, many obstacles stand in the way of reducing poverty in Africa, including conflict and war and weak institutions.

Restricted Mobility

Another problem plaguing the African continent is a lack of regional mobility. African residents face stricter restrictions to travel across the continent compared to their European counterparts. In fact, the free movement of people, as well as goods, throughout the African continent, has been virtually nonexistent. For instance, a Nigerian businessman reported that he had to apply for 38 separate visas to conduct intra-regional business.

Regional mobility is a factor that generally drives economic development. The free movement of goods can boost a country’s GDP while the free movement of people can fill gaps in the labor market. Intra-regional movement accounts for a significant portion of Europe’s economy. Around 70 percent of all trade in Europe is intra-regional. In Africa, intra-regional accounts for less than 15 percent. As a result, Africa is missing various opportunities to boost its economy and reduce extreme poverty.

The Africa Visa Openness Index

In 2016, the African Development Bank had the vision to build a global market in Africa. The group believed regional mobility and intra-regional trade created more attractive markets. As a result, the African Development Bank began to track each African country’s visa entry requirements. The group also measured how freely African citizens were able to move through the continent. The Africa Visa Openness Index reports the group’s findings.

The Index ranks each of the 55 African countries in terms of visa openness. The following factors were used to determine the rankings: visa required (low openness ranking); visa on arrival (medium openness ranking) and no visa required (high openness ranking).

The Africa Visa Openness Index has influenced several African nations to make improvements to their trade and visa policies. For example, two years after ranking 28th on the Index in 2016, Benin’s President Patrice Talon announced that the country will no longer require visas for other Africans.

The launch of the African Passport will be the final stage in facilitating the free movement of people and goods across Africa. Africa’s entire population, approximately 1.2 billion people, will have an African Union Passport. This passport will serve as the key to freely move between African nations.

The idea for the African Union Passport is not new. The concept was proposed and approved by all 55 African nations decades ago. However, the dream of regional mobility became a reality after Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Chadian President Idriss Deby unveiled the prototype of the passport in 2016.

By 2020, all Africans will have an African Union Passport. The goal of the passport is to discourage regional isolation by increasing accessibility to intra-regional travel, tourism and trade. By working as a unit, Africa has the chance to boost economic development and end extreme poverty.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Wikimedia

Ghana’s Water Crisis
Much like many other countries in Africa, Ghana‘s water crisis is straining the nation. The local government has taken steps to try and minimize the damage, but a growing population, faulty equipment and rapid urbanization are outpacing most improvements. Here are eight facts about Ghana’s water crisis.

8 Facts About Ghana’s Water Crisis

  1. While some African countries suffer from a lack of water, Ghana suffers from too much polluted water. The problem lies in a lack of functioning water filters. The government plans to replace these defective filters, but the costs can run to an estimated $35 million. Despite this, the government is going ahead with the project with the support of outside companies, such as Native Energy and NGOs.
  2. The rapid urbanization in Ghana causes water pollution. Unsafe housing with poor housing facilities like sinks and toilets pour polluted water into waterways. This causes families to resort to water vendors, which are often not sanitary. This leads to a vicious cycle of water pollution, where more people get sick as a result.
  3. One of the leading diseases affecting the people of Ghana is cholera. It spreads primarily through the use of faulty toilets and plumbing. A flash flood further exacerbated the situation in 2014 when copious amounts of polluted water mixed with water supplies, affecting 30,000 people.
  4. The government has taken steps to improve the state of affairs with the Ghana Clean Water Project. This project seeks to improve the water situation by hiring skilled individuals to administer water quality testing as well as teaching communities how to maintain sanitation practices. The cleanliness is especially important since as mentioned before poor sanitation contributes heavily to Ghana’s water issues.
  5. Dry winter winds, called harmattan, also cause water shortages in Ghana. This leads to water rationing, which of course leads to protests and public discontent. Deforestation and illegal gold mining further exacerbate the problem by further polluting the limited water supply.
  6. Seventy-three percent of the population, or about 23 million people, use water that may not follow sanitary standards. This would mean that only 3.9 million people in Ghana can access water that is safe. Everyone else has to sift through contaminated water.
  7. Population growth, alongside rapid urbanization, also causes water pollution. Between 2016 and 2050, projections estimate that the population of Africa will double. For Ghana, this means that while new economic activities could crop up, the strain on water resources will also increase. Ghana’s situation can only get worse as time goes on if it leaves these issues unchecked.
  8. The African Development Bank calculated that granting universal access to water across Africa would cost $66 billion. This does not even include the $170 billion necessary to create a sustainable infrastructure to keep water supplies high. Officials in the government say that Ghana will need a better allocation of resources to see through possible improvements.

Unless the government receives outside help, however, it may be some time before it acquires any substantial gain in sanitation or water production. This is why these eight facts about Ghana’s water crisis are so important.

Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Potential Rise in Poverty Among OPECThe drastic plunge that oil prices have taken from record figures of over $100 a barrel, down to averaging between $40-$45 a barrel, has left the economies of several OPEC countries beleaguered.

A potential rise in poverty among OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is expected as oil is indeed the cornerstone of a majority of their exports and revenue has swung drastically since 2014.

The combined effects of excess supply and competition among markets over the years have impacted OPEC nations like Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Iraq. The economic uncertainty has deterred these large developing economies adversely.

An estimated 250,000 jobs have been lost as a result of the progressive decline in oil prices and many more are threatened owing to the 50 percent drop over the last two years. This crisis will result in a potential rise in poverty among OPEC, with declining national incomes overall.

Moreover, the presence of Boko Haram in Nigeria has also been a factor that is currently impacting its oil exporting capacity. The 50 percent price decline has only fueled this.

To combat a potential rise in poverty and economic instability, the African Development Bank plans to provide loans worth $10 billion by the year 2019 to bolster various sectors, including energy and electricity. Despite Nigeria’s depreciating currency and 70 percent poverty rate, this method can greatly increase investment capacity and attract more investment.

The Abidjan, a bank based in the Ivory Coast, also resolved to provide $1 billion for supporting the Nigerian budget.

A report by Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper has commended its diversification projects as a means to boost economic growth amid uncertainty.

Existing tensions between oil-producing nations have also escalated as a result of the plummet. Many nations argue about freezing and regulating their output. Consequently, mediating between countries is a viable way to ease the pressure. Iraq is currently heading a conciliation with Iran and Saudi Arabia in an attempt for both countries to reach a consensus regarding the crisis.

Ecuador, OPEC’s smallest member, was especially plagued by the plunge in oil prices as the government has to control and curtail public expenditure. The government has looked to OPEC remedy the situation in some way.

President of OPEC and minister of energy and industry in Qatar, Mohammed Saleh Abdulla Al Sada, is also working actively to agree upon a benchmark price and output level for all countries to adhere to. A renewed benchmark output of 32.5 million barrels has recently been discussed. This could alleviate the price volatility and circumvent a potential rise in poverty among OPEC countries.

Similarly, Algeria has also been a strong advocate of cutting production among OPEC nations as a means to raise oil prices again. Algeria is expected to see a 3 percent drop in its GDP this year.

Furthermore, political and economic turmoil in Venezuela, owing to the oil price decline and President Nicolas Maduro’s ration laws has resulted in food shortages and a 700 percent crippling inflation rate. Venezuela already has a concurrent poverty rate of 32.1 percent.

However, many neighboring countries like Chile, Peru, Argentina and Colombia are in the strategic position to aid the people and reach out to Maduro. Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski recently called upon leaders to engage in the situation.

He believes that Peru’s pharmaceutical industry can be effectively used to help the country. Venezuela’s democratic Unity Alliance also echoes this view. Foreign aid is the only sustainable way for Venezuela to find its way through this major economic and financial bulwark.

Overall, a potential rise in poverty among OPEC countries may be the outcome of the drastic tumbling oil prices. It is vital that countries comply with OPEC proposals and guidelines to safeguard the interests of the economy and the people.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

African Development Bank Embarks on Youth and Women Support in Sahel
The African Development Bank has been ardent in their commitment to support women’s empowerment and employment opportunities for youth in Sahel. Alberic Kacou, vice president for Corporate Services and Human Resources at the African Development Bank, noted that the prevailing global economic challenges were a harbinger for African countries to diversify their economies and reduce poverty during a recent speech.

Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA)
The African Development Bank launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA). This program will invest $300 million in funded support for women. There is also an additional $3 billion to support African countries with women involved in business. Women will have an opportunity to empower themselves and create an independent path for other young African girls to pursue.

Jobs for Youth in Africa
In collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the African Development Bank launched the Jobs for Youth in Africa program to put an end to youth unemployment by creating 8 million agribusiness jobs within a five-year span.

The program will stimulate the creation of 25 million jobs within the next ten years. A total of $3 billion will be used to fund young entrepreneurs in Africa and facilitate the enhancement of skills to better network youths with industrial development.

Program Offers Youth Training
The training centers and facilities provided by the African Development Bank and the IITA will assist African youths to tackle work in the agricultural sector. The initiative also seeks to encourage unemployed African youths to become involved in agriculture in order to make it a catalyst for development in Africa.

Second Strategy in Effect
Akinwumi Adesina presented five development priorities for the institution in September 2015. The “Feed Africa” initiative is aimed to amplify job creation and make the agriculture sector a lucrative industry. The African Development Bank plans to reduce Africa’s imported food dependency by 2025.

The Benefit of Farmers
Another solution to improve the agricultural sector in Africa is to support local farmers by forming partnerships in the production of goods and reduce the amount of food being imported. This will enable the country to “feed itself” and decrease the high levels of youth unemployment. The removal of regional trade barriers will help to maximize Africa’s agricultural potential in food production.

These dynamic programs created by the African Development Bank will prove influential towards the welfare and positive development of African communities for youth and women.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

African Poverty Facts
Despite various obstacles, the African continent is seeing major progress in poverty-related areas. Africa is more than its struggle with distressing circumstances, and today its global importance is quickly growing. Here are the latest African poverty facts that you should know:

  1. Out of Africa’s 54 countries, 28 are among the poorest on earth, making Africa the poorest continent in the world. However, six of the world’s 10 most rapidly developing markets are also located on the continent.
  2. Roughly 70 percent of Africa’s population lives in rural poverty, but Time Magazine reports that African urbanization has risen to 37 percent with a third of the population considered middle-class by the African Development Bank.
  3. More than 40 percent of African women do not have access to basic education, and upward of 80 percent of African subsistence farmers are female, putting women at a significant disadvantage.
  4.  Africa’s children still suffer considerably. 20 percent live with some type of disability, six million die from malnutrition before age five every year, and 3,000 succumb to malaria every day.
  5. In Sub-Saharan Africa, around 313 million people lack improved water sources and nearly 235 million go without clean sanitation facilities.
  6. Half of Sub-Saharan Africans live on less than $1 per day. Yet, the African Development Bank estimates that by 2060 nearly one billion Africans are expected to enter the middle class.
  7. One in every four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are food-insecure and 23 million African children go to school hungry.
  8. Without government intervention, the U.N. estimates the number of people living in urban slums in Sub-Saharan Africa will double to 400 million by the year 2020.
  9. Poverty rates are higher in countries that are repeatedly exposed to violence. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, major armed conflicts occurred in 18 African countries since 1990. However, this is juxtaposed with the 30+ violent conflicts that took place in the years before and during the Cold War.

These African poverty facts demonstrate the prevalence of both poverty and progress and prove that, although many improvements are still needed,  the future of Africa is not bleak. Africa’s prospects are encouraging and overall, with continued support, success is ultimately attainable.

Kristina Evans

Photo: Prezi

Updated Kenya-South Sudan ”Highway” Alleviates Regional Poverty
With support from the World Bank Group, the governments of Kenya and South Sudan, as well as other stakeholders, recently inaugurated a new project that will upgrade a critical trade route connecting the two countries.

The updated route will make trade easier between the two countries, improve livelihoods for people living in the northwest region and alleviate regional poverty.

Currently, the Kenya-South Sudan highway, which runs through Trans Nzoia, Turkana and West Pokot counties, is a rugged track. It’s hard for vehicles to pass the deteriorated area.

Travelers run the risk of encountering bandits along the route and also pay fares that are an average of six times the price for a comparable distance on good roads.

The East Africa Transport, Trade and Development Facilitation Project will rehabilitate a 309-kilometer trek of land to create a safe route for goods and people along the Lokichar, Nadapal/Nakodoc road in the northwest region of Kenya.

The World Bank Group launched $500 million to support other activities designed to improve the livelihoods for those living in the region and to improve regional competitiveness.

Diarietou Gaye, World Bank country director for Kenya, says, “This new project is unique in its own right, because of its size, geographical coverage, and the range of activities it will undertake, targeting the specific needs of the vulnerable communities in Trans Nzoia, Turkana and West Pokot counties.”

Including 1.5 million people, those counties are home to some of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The rehabilitation of this section will cost $676 million, among which the Kenya government will contribute $176 million. Other development partners, such as the African Development Bank, German Development Bank and the European Union have shown interest in financing the reconstruction of the remaining sections.

The World Bank Group, with other development partners such as the African Development Bank and China, will support $80 million for the other 400-kilometer section in South Sudan, from its capital Juba to the border with Kenya.

In addition to rehabilitating the trade and transport corridor, the project will facilitate the construction of a 1,000-kilometer fiber optic connection between Kenya and South Sudan, as well as a one-stop border post to facilitate cross-border transport and trade between the two countries.

When the corridor is upgraded, traveling and sending goods from Kenya’s Port of Mombasa to Juba will be much faster.

Moreover, the project will also offer water and sanitation services, build domestic and export markets for livestock, agricultural produce, fisheries and mineral products, and facilitate extraction of petroleum resources in the recently discovered oil fields in Turkana and neighboring counties.

In addition, the project will create jobs and income opportunities for members of the local communities.

– Shengyu Wang

Sources: The World Bank, Chr. Michelsen Institute
Photo: Flickr

The water crisis in Africa is real. With close to 50 percent of Africans contracting a waterborne disease, the associated number of deaths contributed to either lack of water or improper water sanitation stands at an astounding 2 million lives lost each year. Even in 2013, in the glorious age of iPhones, internet and instant communication, 35 percent of the world’s population still lacks proper access to the most basic building block of life – water.

One standout organization works to change these statistics by creating a movement and igniting change across the continent. The African Water Facility (AWF) focuses on locating and using resources in the most efficient manner to spur water development initiatives across Africa. AWF is funded and hosted through the African Development Bank, which works through a variety of industries to promote its mission statement to “promote sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty in Africa.” One of its initiatives in accomplishing this goal is the African Water Facility, created by the African Development Bank in 2006 to address the health problems associated with inadequate water.

The African Water Foundation provides relief in multiple sectors, with the ultimate goal of reaching the United Nations Africa Water Vision by 2025 to create sustainable food and water sources for Africa’s entire population. The AWF offers support to both governments and regional organizations to increase water governance and to increase better tracking of water resources. This also helps to ensure cooperation between borders to share resources and work together to make a difference.

Another goal of the foundation is to attract investors to support African infrastructure and development to increase funding to the region. The plan is for these monetary investments to pump money into Africa, encouraging development and the accumulation of resources, including food, water, proper sanitation, and adequate regulations. The AWF plans to bring in investors through the development of innovative new technologies and invention of educational programs.

The AWF’s two current primary focuses include spreading “knowledge and information” in addition to following up with their projects through “monitoring and evaluation.” This spread of knowledge is aimed at informing citizens how to both evaluate the quality of water and learn low-cost methods of securing a safe water source through new technology. The plan for their second focus on evaluation includes completing assessments of each African nation, collecting data on water availability, and establishing management systems to encourage communication about the water.

Though the AWF has set ambitious goals for itself in providing sustainable access to food and water to the entire continent of Africa before 2025, its methodology and systemized organization just might be enough to maintain the focus on addressing the water crisis and make exciting changes.

Allison Meade

Sources: African Water Facility, Build Africa
Photo: EUWI

After being deployment in 14 different African countries, the Open Data for Africa Platform has now been officially “rolled out to all 54 countries across the [African] continent,” announced the African Development Bank (AfDB), which launched the project.

Open Data for Africa is “part of the worldwide effort to strengthen statistical capacity” in order to “foster evidence-based decision-making, public accountability and good governance.”

Open Data for Africa directly resulted from global and regional initiatives aimed at boosting the availability of data necessary for the management and monitoring of development results and programs throughout Africa, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The African Development Bank defines Open Data for Africa as “a user-friendly tool for extracting data, creating, and sharing customized reports, and visualizing data across themes, sectors and countries through tables, charts, and maps.” Thus, this unique platform provides reliable and timely data on Africa, through the use of development indicators, statistics and graphs.

Open Data for Africa will enable African governments and policymakers to more easily participate in the international community while facilitating dialogue between informed users across the globe. “This is because the platform is part of the AfDB’s ‘Africa Information Highway’ initiative which saw the establishment of live data links between the AfDB, National Statistical Offices, Central Banks and … ministries in all 54 countries.”

Ultimately, there are hopes attached to Open Data for Africa. The transparency of results of development programs and statistics is expected to encourage good governance and greater accountability of African leaders. Public awareness of funding and programs could spur development, especially given the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, as The Next Web notes.

– Lauren Yeh

Sources: AfDB, The Next Web, Open Data for Africa

Ethiopia is in the midst of a US $75 billion dollar, 5-year growth plan. The plan includes infrastructure projects in and around Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital. According to Mathewos Bekel, head of the city’s planning office, Addis Ababa is already more than 125 years old so plans will change the existing situation of the neighborhoods in order to put in more infrastructure. Therefore, the main challenge developers will come when trying to redevelop the existing areas.

The plans will expand market areas, creating more space for leisure areas and transportation, and will bring in more services such as cafeterias and restaurants. The city and surrounding areas are expecting a population growth of about 5 million people in the coming, and as many as 8 million in the coming 25 years. Rapid population growth is a trend seen across Africa. 41% of Africans live in cities and that numbers grows by 1% every 2 years. The city planning office will work to transform 50% of the cities slums into permanent housing complexes within a decade. In order to improve the slum areas in terms of the quality of the buildings, the infrastructure, and services, they need to be redeveloped and updated.

Based on its Annual Competitiveness Report, the African Development Bank says a shortage of infrastructure reduces the continents annual growth by at least 2 percent. Infrastructure deficit has been identified as a major barrier to improved productivity, private sector development, economic diversification, and spatial inclusion. By spending just 5% of its total GDP on infrastructure, the bank estimates productivity could increase by up to 40%.

Ethiopia is one of the world’s oldest and poorest countries. The country’s per capita income of US$370 is significantly lower than the regional average of US$1,257. The government is working to reach middle-income status—US$1,025—over the next decade.

The economy has experienced strong economic growth over the past decade, averaging 9.9% per year in 2004/05-2011/12, substantially higher than the regional average of 5.4%. This economic growth has created positive trends in reducing poverty throughout urban and rural areas. In 2004-2005, 38.7% of Ethiopians lived in extreme poverty. Five years later this proportion was reduced to 29.6%. Using the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), the goal is to reduce this to 22.2% by 2014-2015.

Ethiopia’s investment in infrastructure will play a key role in continuing and accelerating the progress made in recent years towards economic growth and development goals. Over the past two decades, significant progress has been made:

  • Primary school enrollments have quadrupled
  • The number of people with access to clean water has more than doubled
  • Child mortality has been cut in half

Ali Warlich

Sources: CNN, AfDB, World Bank
Photo: Focus Africa

The African Development Bank (AfDB) was created in 1966, with 33 African member countries and starting capital of $250 million. Since then it has continued to grow, and with the addition of South Sudan last year, the total number of member states now stands at 54.

The initial goal of the AfDB was to promote sustainable development and reduce poverty on the continent of Africa through investment. Much of this investment has been towards infrastructure, including transportation, water, and energy. However, African spending on infrastructure currently sits at around 4% of GDP, compare that to 14% in China. Investments by AfDB have increased that number significantly, and there are plans to further boost it in the coming years in an attempt to bridge the infrastructure gap.

With Africa now the world’s second fastest-growing continent, and the pace of economic growth only accelerating, many opportunities are now presenting themselves for African nations to truly step onto the global stage. But at the same time, job crises and youth unemployment, results of the continuing global recession, present challenges these governments must first overcome. Defining and overcoming these challenges is the primary goal of the new Bank Strategy for the upcoming decade.

The strategy of the AfDB aims to align the Bank’s vision for Africa with the reality, and in so doing improve the quality of growth in Africa. Over the past decade Africa’s economic growth and transformation has been patchwork – the economies of some countries growing, others shrinking – but without a shared ideology and shared growth, it may not be sustainable.

The two main goals of the AfDB strategy are to promote ‘inclusive growth’ and ‘green growth.’ Inclusive growth refers to growth that benefits all demographics, rather than only benefiting a few. In order to achieve this, AfDB plans to invest in infrastructure to create more potential in the private sector, and at the same time focus on equality and community involvement. With inclusive economic growth, countries could see large increases in jobs corresponding to large reductions in poverty levels.

The second primary goal will be to target sustainable growth. By transitioning towards sustainability at an early stage of the development of many of these countries, natural resources can be preserved rather than exploited, and energy and food security can be protected. This will be even more significant due to developing patterns of climate change, only exacerbated by such issues as deforestation, and the growing concern with natural resource availability, especially that of water.

The growth of African can only be expected to continue through the next decade. But the challenge faced by the African Development Bank will be to ensure that growth reaches across borders and social levels and allows the continent to rise as one.

– David Wilson
Sources: All Africa African Development Bank
Photo: Africa Renewal