Obasanjo, Annan, others list ways to check Africa’s woes

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other African leaders have identified how to overcome the continent’s challenges and begin a strong economic growth trajectory.

The position of the leaders which was contained in the “2012 Africa Progress Report”, was presented yesterday during the third “Annual Africa 2.0 Symposium” in Lagos.

They warned that Africa’s developmental path – which would see the region increase the pace of growth well beyond five per cent over the next two years – was at risk because of rising inequality and the marginalisation of whole sections of society, including youth.

The report was presented by President Obasanjo, member of the Africa Progress Panel and Chair of the Advisory Board, Africa 2.0; Bineta Diop, Founder and Chair of the Board, Femmes Africa Solidarité; Hadeel Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Frannie Léautier, Executive Secretary, the African Capacity Building Foundation; and Mamadou Kwidjim Toure, Founder of Africa 2.0.

Obasanjo said: “The responsibility for progress rests with African governments. The mix of growth, human development and accountable governance holds immense potential but recent events have shown the frustration globally over persistent inequalities and the lack of jobs and justice. Now is the time to improve Africa’s political leadership quality to strengthen the rule of law and the political and economic empowerment of citizens.”

Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, stated in the report that, “Disparities in basic life-chances – for health, education and participation in society – are preventing millions of young Africans from realizing their potential, holding back social and economic progress in the process.”

The report noted that Africa has seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with 70 per cent of Africa’s population living in countries that have averaged economic growth rates in excess of four per cent over the past decade. However, the report also recorded that most countries are not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, flagging slow progress in areas such as child nutrition, child survival, maternal health, and education.

The need for equitable growth is all the more critical, the report stated, because of Africa’s “profound demographic shift”, which will see the continent’s population double in three decades, and continue to rise into the second half of the 21st century. The report highlighted that today there are 70 million more Africans aged under 14 than there were a decade ago. Over the next decade that number will rise by another 76 million.

Panelists in Lagos called for a “relentless focus” by policymakers on jobs, justice and equity to ensure sustainable, shared growth that benefits all Africans. Failure to generate equitable growth could result in “a demographic disaster marked by rising levels of youth unemployment, social dislocation and hunger.”

Panelists identified a range of challenges demanding urgent action on the part of governments.  In the area of youth employment, they noted that Africa’s youth population (15-24 year olds) would rise from 133 million at the start of the century to 246 million by 2020 – requiring another 74 million jobs over the next decade simply to prevent youth unemployment from rising. The report set out an agenda for raising skills and generating rural jobs through off-farm employment.

In the absence of a concerted effort to raise the productivity of smallholder agriculture, and revamp the sector to make it more attractive to the youth, the report cautioned that Africa would remain vulnerable to food security crises. It identified ‘land grabs’ by foreign investors and speculators as a major threat and urged African government to consider stronger regulation.

The report called for urgent action to tackle what it described as a ‘twin crisis’ in access and learning. With 30 million children out of school and many of those in school failing to master basic literacy, Africa is ill-equipped to generate jobs and take its place in a knowledge-based global economy. The report called for a strengthened focus on education and the creation of appropriate funding mechanisms.

It recognized that democracy was taking roots, that multiparty elections were now firmly established and that more countries were peaceful than in the past. However, corruption, respect for the rule of law, accountability and transparency were still challenges that needed to be addressed including through citizens’ empowerment and the strengthening of the national and regional institutions.

The report noted that Africa still had a weak voice in areas – such as trade, finance and development assistance – that have a critical bearing on its citizens. The report added that aid remained vitally important and that African governments and development partners must deliver on their commitments in a transparent and accountable way.

Original Source: The Guardian Nigeria 

Chaired by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Africa Progress Panel (the Panel) includes distinguished individuals from the private and public sectors, who advocate on global issues of importance to Africa and the world.

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