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Africa Industrialization Day: Unlocking Africa’s “value-added” industrial potential

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Africa Industrialisation Day, which falls on Friday, mobilizes the commitment of the international community to the continent’s industrialisation and gives us the opportunity to reflect on the Bank’s impact in this sector, one of its High 5 priorities. 

From oil to cocoa, cotton to vanilla, Africa is rich in naturual resources but its heavy dependence on commodity exports means it has yet to take full advantage of the added value that processing raw materials and manufacturing can bring.

The African Development Bank is working to change this by promoting successful industrial policies, attracting funding to infrastructure and industry and supporting the growth of capital markets to create quality employment that alleviates poverty.

The last decade has seen progress, with manufacturing growth in Africa outpacing the global growth rate. In 2019, Africa’s industrial GDP expanded by 17% to $731 billion (in 2010 dollars), with the value-added of manufacturing surging by 39%, according to the Bank’s 2020 Annual Development Effectiveness Review (ADER).

But Africa’s industrialisation is geographically limited, with around two-thirds of value-added manufacturing taking place in just five nations: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa.

This year, progress has been reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended economic growth, disrupted trade and financial flows and triggered losses of millions of jobs.

The economic and social impact of the pandemic has injected more urgency into the drive to industrialise Africa, just as the African Continental Free Trade Area is set to reshape the continent into a singular market of 2.5 billion people by 2050.

As the African Development Bank joins the international community to mark Industrialization Day, some stories of women and men turning the tables on Africa’s industrialisation front merit all our attention.

PROCESSING, MANUFACTURING AND TECH

Just outside Cairo, the Egyptian Refining Company (ERC), a greenfield petroleum refinery, is one of the largest industrial units of its kind in Africa.

With nearly $222 million in funding from the Bank, the refinery converts the lowest-value fuel into 4.7 million tons of refined products and high-quality oil derivatives per year, meeting domestic consumption needs, cutting emissions from dirty fuels and reducing Egypt’s balance of payment deficit.

The huge project created more than 15,000 jobs at peak construction and 1,000 permanent local job opportunities.

“From day one they were able to see that this project, which has been 12 years in the making, was going to have a transformative effect on Egypt’s economy,” said Ahmed Heikal, chairman and founder of ERC’s parent company, Qalaa Holdings.

In 2019, 1 million people across Africa benefited from the Bank’s industrial investee projects. Turnover from Bank investments in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) almost trebled, reaching $1 billion and far exceeding targets.

Some of the best opportunities for Africa’s industrialization lie in agriculture. Crucial to this sector is the Bank’s support of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs), which strengthen African countries’ ability to attract private sector investment by bringing policy, investment and infrastructure together, usually in a rural area with high agricultural output.

Take South Africa, where the Bank is supporting the development of 22 SAPZs. One of them, Bokomoso Ba Rona SAPZ, aims to rehabilitate an area and develop a post-mining economy on a 30,000-hectare site owned by mining company Sibanye-Stillwater.

“We are aiming to attract private sector investment, which will drive agro-processing and build a strong value chain,” said Noxolo Mtembu, Project Manager at the Gauteng Infrastructure Financing Agency, which is responsible for developing the SAPZ.

Africa’s emerging connectivity and a workforce increasingly familiar with the digital world and new technologies will make it possible for the continent to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution to improve productivity, create jobs, and extend social welfare.

New industries have transformed the fabric of local economies, for example in Nabeul, in north-eastern Tunisia, once most famous as a craft and tourist centre.

Now Nabeul is becoming as well known for its high-tech industries. With financing from the Bank, the MEDIS pharmaceutical laboratory was established to produce generic medicines, creating thousands of skilled jobs and becoming one of the region’s biggest employers.

The laboratory has provided formal, secure jobs for many who otherwise would have been confined to informal work or unemployment.

“My job with MEDIS has given me freedom and dignity. I’m not asking for a handout and I’m not asking anything of anyone,” said employee Sabra Gmati.

“If MEDIS or a business like it wasn’t in Nabeul, I’d be unemployed and I would stay at home.”

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Africa Today

Investing in Key Sectors to Help Nigeriens Recover From the Health and Security Crises

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The Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the security situation continue to undermine the Nigerien economy, wiping out years of hard-won gains in poverty reduction.  A number of fiscal policy options are, however, available to help the country enhance public expenditure efficiency and increase its GDP by up to 2%. These are the findings of the World Bank’s latest economic and poverty update for Niger published today.

The report titled “Maximizing Public Expenditure Efficiency for Rebuilding Better” analyzes the impact of the health and security crises on Niger’s economy. The economy grew by 5.9% in 2019, but slowed to 3.6% in 2020, as a result of the combined impact of these crises. This sharp downturn increased poverty levels and pushed an additional 400,000 people into extreme poverty.

Nigeriens have been hard hit by the volatile security situation and these long months in the pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of children being kept out of school and deprived of proper health care, which will adversely affect their future,” notes Joelle Dehasse, World Bank Country Manager for Niger. “Turning this situation around will require massive and effective investments in human capital over the next few years.”

The report notes that these investments must be accompanied by bold structural and sectoral reforms aimed, among other things, at mobilizing more domestic resources, modernizing the administration, including the civil service, and promoting sound, prudent, and transparent government spending.

The projections for 2021 are nevertheless positive and economic growth is expected to rebound to 5.5%, driven by the reopening of the border with Nigeria, the resumption of large investment projects, and the normalization of several supply chains. However, these projections remain subject to the duration of the pandemic and the availability of vaccines, as well as to climate hazards and their impact on agricultural production and livelihoods.

The government of Niger has made tremendous progress in recent years in managing its public finances, giving high priority to social spending,” says Paolo Di Lorenzo, World Bank Senior Economist and co-author of the report. “However, public expenditure pressures remain high, partly due to the deteriorating security situation. Against this backdrop, the authorities should take further steps to improve domestic resource mobilization and public spending efficiency.”

The report’s authors recommend reprioritization across a number of key sectors in order to ensure Niger’s strong economic rebound.  These recommendations aim to redirect government revenues to basic social services and essential public infrastructure in order to maximize growth opportunities and social welfare. “Implementing the recommendations in the education sector will help improve spending and reallocate resources within the sector,” says Blaise Ehowe Nguem, Country Economist for Niger. “This will improve the quality of education, thereby reducing repetition and dropout rates.

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Partnership with Private Sector is Key in Closing Rwanda’s Infrastructure Gap

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The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has pushed the Rwandan economy into recession in 2020 for the first time since 1994, according to the World Bank’s latest Rwanda Economic Update.

The 17th edition of the Rwanda Economic Update: The Role of the Private Sector in Closing the Infrastructure Gap, says that the economy shrank by 3.7 percent in 2020, as measures implemented to limit the spread of the coronavirus and ease pressures on health systems brought economic activity to a near standstill in many sectors. Although the economy is set to recover in 2021, the report notes the growth is projected to remain below the pre-pandemic average through 2023.

Declining economic activity has also reduced the government’s ability to collect revenue amid increased fiscal needs, worsening the fiscal situation. Public debt reached 71 percent of GDP in 2020, and is projected to peak at 84 percent of GDP in 2023. Against this backdrop, the report underlines the importance of the government’s commitment to implement a fiscal consolidation plan once the crisis abates to reduce the country’s vulnerability to external shocks and liquidity pressures.

“Narrowing fiscal space calls for a progressive shift in Rwanda’s development model away from the public sector towards a predominantly private sector driven model, while also stepping up efforts to improve  the efficiency of public investment,” said Calvin Djiofack, World Bank’s Senior Economist for Rwanda.

According to the Update, private sector financing, either through public-private partnerships or pure private investment, will be essential for Rwanda to continue investing in critical infrastructure needed to achieve its development goals. The analysis underscores the need to capitalize further on Rwanda’s foreign direct investment (FDI) regulatory framework, considered one of the best in the continent, to attract and retain more FDI; to foster domestic private capital mobilization through risk sharing facilities that would absorb a percentage of the losses on loans made to private projects; and to avoid unsolicited proposals  of public–private partnership (PPP) initiatives; as well as to build a robust, multisector PPP project pipeline, targeting sectors with clearly identified service needs such as transport, water and sanitation, waste management, irrigation, and housing.

While the report findings establish clearly the gains of public infrastructure development for the country as whole, it also stressed that these gains tend to benefit urban and richer households most.

 “Rwanda will need to rebalance its investment strategy from prioritizing large strategic capital-intensive projects toward projects critical for broad-based social returns to boost the potential of public infrastructure to reduce inequality and poverty,” said Rolande Pryce, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda. “Any step toward the Malabo Declaration to allocate 10 percent of future infrastructure investment to agriculture, allied activities, and rural infrastructure, will go a long way to achieving this goal.

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Greenpeace Africa responds to the cancellation of oil blocks in Salonga National Park

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© Kim S. Gjerstad

On Monday the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to remove Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The decision follows clarification “provided by the national authorities that the oil concessions overlapping with the property are nul[l] and void and that these blocks will be excluded from future auctioning.”

Oil blocks overlapping with Salonga were awarded by President Joseph Kabila in the twilight of his regime. Greenpeace Africa has repeatedly demanded their cancellation, while local leaders voiced their opposition to the project in light of its impacts on communities. 

“A decision by President Felix Tshisekedi to cancel all oil blocks in Salonga Park must be followed by a decision to cancel oil blocks in Virunga Park and across the Cuvette Centrale region. These are vast areas rich in biodiversity that provide clean water, food security and medicine to local communities and which render environmental services to humanity,” says Irene Wabiwa Betoko, International Project Leader for the Congo Basin forest. 

The Salonga National Park, which is Africa’s largest tropical rainforest reserve, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1984. The park plays a fundamental role in climate regulation and the sequestration of carbon. The park is also home to numerous endemic endangered species such as the pygmy chimpanzee (or bonobo), the forest elephant, the African slender-snouted crocodile and the Congo peacock. Salonga had been inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999, due to pressures such as poaching, deforestation and poor management. The government of DRC later on issued oil drilling licences that encroached on the protected area, posing a threat to the wildlife-rich site.

“DRC’s auctioning of oil blocks has not only been scandalously lacking transparency and menacing for particularly sensitive environmental areas – they neither benefit Congolese people nor the planet. Instead of privileging a small group of beneficiaries of the toxic fossil fuels industry, diversifying the DRC’s economy should be done through renewable energy investments that will make energy accessible and affordable for all,” Irene Wabiwa concluded.

Greenpeace Africa urges full transparency from both UNESCO and the DRC government and calls for the publication of all supportive documents regarding the decision to cancel the aforementioned oil blocks, as well as the map of the nine oil blocks that are still being auctioned in the Cuvette Centrale region.

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