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Avoiding a Jobs Crisis in Africa is a Global Responsibility

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This month, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim shocked the international aid community with his announcement that he will leave his post on 1 February — more than three years before his term expires. With his departure, Kim emphasised that “the work of the World Bank Group is more important now than ever as the aspirations of the poor rise all over the world…” But as Kim steps down, many of the Bank’s current efforts to end poverty and meet these aspirations are still ramping up.

In Africa, the biggest threat to poverty reduction is an imminent shortage of jobs. The World Bank estimates that Africa’s working-age population will grow by 70% (450 million) between 2015 and 2035.Where will Africa find the jobs needed for such a rapidly growing, young population?

In the past, the answer has been industry. In East Asia for example, large numbers of workers left agriculture and moved to manufacturing — boosting economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. But Africa has deindustrialized; its share of global manufacturing is smaller than in 1980. Today, 75% of new labour market entrants are self-employed or find work in microenterprises, 20% work in the service sector, and just 5% work in industry. If these trends continue, less than a quarter of Africans expected to reach working age over the next two decades can hope to find decent work.

This jobs crisis is emerging against stiff competition from East Asia’s highly productive — and relatively low-wage — manufacturing sector, and a global decline of industrial employment and output. And while resource-abundant economies, like many of Africa’s, have difficulty industrializing, the continent must also adapt to the growth of global value chains that depend on the capacity to move goods cheaply and efficiently — an area in which Africa has not excelled.

But there is also good news. Research by the United Nations University and the Brookings Institution shows that the same trends that limit Africa’s opportunities in industry also create a growing number of tradable services and agri-businesses — including horticulture — that share the ability to create jobs.

These “industries without smokestacks” are among the most dynamic sectors of Africa’s economies. And, because tradable services (e.g. tourism and remote office services), agro-industry (e.g. fruit juices), and horticulture (e.g. cut flowers and ready-to-consume vegetables) share many characteristics with manufacturing, policies designed to promote the growth of manufacturing — such as improving trade logistics, investing in infrastructure and skills, and promoting exports — promote them as well.

The international community has a major stake in creating jobs in Africa. Solving the looming jobs crisis is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and to achieving social and political stability across the continent. The good news is that with modest support from the international community, industry — with and without smokestacks — can create good jobs in Africa.

There are three actions for trade and one for aid, that would help support the needed job creation.

First, collective action is needed to boost African manufacturing and services exports. The small size of Africa’s economies means that exports are essential to the growth of jobs. The first order of business is to resist the rising tide of protectionism. The World Trade Organization negotiations on agricultural and manufactured goods trade have faltered and the United States has retreated from its leadership on trade. In its place, China, India, and Brazil have begun to play more prominent roles in world trade talks. They must step up to defend the multilateral rules that keep markets open.

Second, Africa’s main trading partners — especially those in Asia — should ease the entry of non-traditional African exports. A major step would be to reduce the tariffs on processed commodities that discourage the formation of agro-industrial value chains. China could play a leading role by shifting its preferential trade agreements with Africa from country-by-country bilateral deals to a single well-publicized Africa-wide initiative, and by pushing its Asian trading partners to offer similar preferences. Existing preference systems, such as the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act and the EU Economic Partnership

Agreements can be strengthened, and if there is a bright spot to “Brexit”, it may be the opportunity for the UK to develop its own system of preferences for African exports.

Third, fully implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is a priority. By reducing the costs of exporting, trade facilitation supports the growth of existing exporters and enables new firms to export for the first time. The WTO estimates that full implementation of the TFA could reduce trade costs for Africa by more than 16%. After a slow start, the WTO Aid-for-Trade initiative is finally mobilising additional resources for trade-related infrastructure and deploying them where most needed. This momentum should be sustained.

Finally, infrastructure — particularly electric power, roads and railways — is essential to industry. Official Development Assistance (ODA) has been a key source of infrastructure finance, but in recent years, financing through the concessional windows of the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) has declined. Governments in Africa from Angola to Zambia have turned to private borrowing, and there are early warnings of debt distress in some. A better alternative would be to allow creditworthy countries to borrow from the non-concessional windows of the World Bank and other MDBs. Blend financing — using concessional and non-concessional loans — and guarantees of private lending to finance infrastructure would yield higher benefits to Africa’s economies than recourse to private markets.

If these four steps are taken, the looming jobs crisis in Africa can be avoided, bringing stability and prosperity to the continent and beyond.

Jim Kim is leaving his position with the job of global poverty eradication unfinished. It’s now up to the international community to pick up the reins and continue this work where it is most needed: Africa

John Page is a senior researcher at the UN University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) and the Brookings Institution. He has spent the last decade doing research on structural change, jobs, and industrial development in Africa.

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Africa

Russia wants to bolster economic ties with Lesotho

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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In southern Russian city Sochi, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Lesego Makgothi, held wide-ranging diplomatic talks mid-February to understand deeply how to continue to build upon relations in numerous areas especially economic cooperation.

Makgothi, who has been Minister since 2017, made his first official trip to Moscow.

According to the official media release, Lavrov and Makgothi exchanged views on important global and regional issues, including Russia’s participation in international efforts to resolve conflicts and crises in Africa and some ways to ensure sustainable socioeconomic development of the continent.

They noted a desire to expand these relations in all areas, beginning with the political dialogue and then cooperation within international organizations, as well as in trade and economic, cultural and humanitarian areas.

During the discussion, both noted geological prospecting, mining and the energy industry as promising areas. The economy is based on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing and mining. Water and diamonds are its significant natural resources.

Both ministers also focused on cooperation in education exchanges. Russia has expanded the quota by five times for students from Lesotho. This will make it possible to meet the interests of Lesotho and to train specialists in healthcare, meteorology and mining starting next academic year, 2019/20.

There was also the possibility of sending law enforcement officers to study in advanced training courses at the educational institutions under the Russian Interior Ministry.

Lavrov informed that an inter-parliamentary Russian-African conference has been scheduled to take place later this year, and Russia would host a general meeting of the African Export-Import Bank’s shareholders.

Lavrov and Makgothi believed that this would make it possible to considerably raise the level of cooperation and to chart specific ways of further enriching Russia’s relations with Africa. He invited Makgothi to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum scheduled for June.

In general, Lavrov and Makgothi advocated for greater cooperation between Russia and the African countries in all areas, primarily within the context of a proposal put forward by President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, at the BRICS summit in July 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Lesotho’s geographic location, the southernmost landlocked country in the world and is entirely surrounded by South Africa, makes it extremely vulnerable to political and economic developments in South Africa.

Relations between the two countries were established soon after Lesotho gained independence in 1966. Lesotho, with about 2.5 million population, is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

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‘Endemic’ sexual violence surging in South Sudan

MD Staff

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The intensification of road patrols followed shocking incidents of rape and sexual assault, reported in the area in recent weeks. UNMISS/Isaac Billy

A surge in sexual violence in South Sudan’s Unity state targeting victims as young as eight years old, has prompted a call from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, for urgent Government measures to protect victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.

Despite the signing of a peace deal between belligerents last September, UN investigators found that at least 175 women and girls have been raped or suffered other sexual and physical violence between September and December 2018.

The actual level of violence is likely to be considerably higher, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told journalists in Geneva on Friday.

“Obviously (it is) not the whole picture, but they found 175, women and girls who had been either raped, gang-raped or sexually assaulted or physically harmed in other ways,” he said. “And 49 of those girls who were raped, were children.”

According to a joint report by OHCHR and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), attacks against women have decreased significantly since the peace accord was signed on 12 September.

Nonetheless, it warns that such incidents are “endemic” in northern Unity state, on the border with Sudan, creating a sense among communities that it is normal to be a victim of sexual violence.

Victim’s testimony recalls recurring attacks

Citing the testimony of one victim, Mr. Colville explained that many women are raped while fetching firewood, food or water – often more than once – as they lack any protection.

“She said, ‘If we go by the main road we are raped, if we go by the bush, we are raped. I was raped among others in the same area repeatedly on three separate occasions.”

The surge in conflict-related sexual violence is attributed to many factors including the breakdown in the rule of law, the destruction of livelihoods, forced displacement and food insecurity, after years of civil war.

Large numbers of armed young men, a ‘toxic mix’

But one of the main reasons is the large number of fighters in the area, who have yet to be reintegrated into the national army, according to the peace deal.

Most of the attacks are reported to have been carried out by youth militia groups and elements of the pro-Taban Deng Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, SPLA-IO (TD), as well as South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF).

In a few cases, attacks were perpetrated by members of the group affiliated with reinstated Vice President and peace deal participant, Riek Machar, Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO (RM), the UN report says.

“Particularly in this area, there are essentially three main groups who…are involved in these rapes, including the National Government force,” said Mr. Colville. “And a lot of these young men who are heavily armed, are just waiting around…This is a very toxic mix, and there are also youth militia which some of these official groups ally with and you don’t know exactly who they are; they’ve been heavily involved as well.”

Rule of law ‘just not applied’

A key challenge is tackling the prevailing impunity throughout Unity state, which is linked to the volatility of the situation across the country, OHCHR maintains.

“There’s been very little accountability in South Sudan for what is chronic, endemic problem of sexual violence against women and girls,” Mr. Colville said. “Virtually complete impunity over the years, as a result, very little disincentive for these men not to do what they’re doing. The rule of law has just not been applied.”

Mobile courts provide glimmer of hope for victims

Among the practical measures taken to a bid to help vulnerable communities in Unity state, UNMISS has cleared roadsides to prevent attackers from hiding from potential victims.

A mobile court system is also operational in towns, including Bentiu, which has had “some success” in bringing perpetrators to trial, OHCHR’s Mr. Colville said, noting nonetheless that “this is just a drop in the ocean”.

“There are thousands and thousands of perpetrators, there are officers involved, there are commanders who’ve got command responsibility who instead of being investigated and brought to book…have been promoted, and are still in charge of groups operating in this area who are still raping women,” he concluded.

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Italy making its way back to Africa

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The countries of the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia) have recently been the focus of attention of Italian diplomacy, with the need to find political partners in Africa to resolve the migrant crisis, the signing of a long-awaited peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2018, China’s rapidly expanding influence in neighboring Djibouti amid the French and US military presence there making the region a strategically important hub.

Rome would like to see an end to Ethiopia’s “landlocked imprisonment” on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea and Djibouti, restore Italy’ presence in the region, based on its colonial past, and ensure Italian companies’ participation in the construction of a strategically important transport infrastructure in the region where they could be entrusted with looking at the possibility of building a railway connecting the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa with the Eritrean port of Massawa.

The share of Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans in the migration flows from Africa to the European Union via Chad, Sudan and Libya has been traditionally high. Italy, which currently ranks third after China and the United Arab Emirates in terms of investment in Africa, wants to help reduce migration by investing in the Horn of Africa countries’ economy and transport infrastructure to improve the economic situation in the region and bring locally produced goods to foreign markets.

With 90 percent of Ethiopian exports going to Djibouti, a country with a population not exceeding 900,000, this helps check the number of Ethiopians heading to the EU, since the country depends on Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia both in terms of infrastructure and also from the standpoint of ensuring political stability in these countries.

While still remaining a poor country, Ethiopia keeps growing fast economically, raking in an impressive yearly growth of 10.3 percent between 2007 and 2017, compared to the regional average of just 5.4 percent. According to experts at the Washington-based Center for Global Development, Ethiopia, with its fast-growing population and relatively cheap labor, will soon emerge as an “African China” in terms of production volumes.

Addis Ababa is also active diplomatically, promoting closer ties with Kenya and Sudan. Italy, for its part, is staking on Ethiopia as an economic and political springboard for expanding its foothold in the Horn of Africa and extrapolating this presence into the Arabian Peninsula via the Red Sea and towards the Indian Ocean.

It is apparently with this goal in mind that, while traditionally maintaining a partnership with Ethiopia and having access to the Indian Ocean, Rome seeks a more dynamic relationship also with Kenya. Italian donor NGOs are currently working in Kenya, and Italian exports to this East African country now exceed €182 million. According to Italy’s Foreign Development Assistance Program (la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo Esteri), Somalia enjoys a priority position here with €270 million worth of Italian grants expected to come in the next 20 years.

Chad and Niger, which border on Libya, are a logical continuation of the Sudan – Eritrea – Ethiopia – Djibouti – Somalia – Kenya geopolitical chain being built by Rome. This explains why Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte visited Ndjamena and Niamey in January after stopovers in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Chad and Niger play a key role in balancing the international security system in the Sahel region, where Italian troops serve as part of a multinational force deployed there. Since the collapse of the Libyan state, Niger and Chad have been viewed by Rome as Europe’s southern border. Rome credits the 80 percent drop in migrant flows from these two countries to Libya to its cooperation with Chadian and Nigerian partners.

Meanwhile, the broad outlines of a rivalry between European powers, above all Italy and France, for control over strategically important African regions and their resources are already visible.

France fears that Italy’s diplomatic successes in Africa could eventually give Rome political and/or economic control over a vast region stretching from Algeria to Kenya, which in turn could politically separate French-speaking North Africa from Central Africa.

Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, which have been a traditional zone of French influence, have not been overlooked by Rome either with an Italian embassy expected to open in Burkina Faso shortly.

Rome’s expanding foothold in Kenya and Somalia is geographically taking it to Madagascar on the east coast of Africa, which is a place where France has its own interests too.

The present cool in Franco-Italian relations, stemming from the two countries’ conflicting views on the migrant problem and the ways to solve it, as well as the degree of political and legal sovereignty EU member states not sharing the views of Brussels, Paris and Berlin on matters pertaining to foreign and domestic economic policy, gives us a reason to expect the competition between Italy and France in Africa to heat up.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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