Africa Progress Report 2014

Grain, Fish, Money

Africa is a rich continent. Some of those riches – especially oil, gas and minerals – have driven rapid economic growth over the past decade. The ultimate measure of progress, however, is the wellbeing of people – and Africa’s recent growth has not done nearly as much as it should to reduce poverty and hunger, or improve health and education.

To sustain growth that improves the lives of all Africans, the continent needs an economic transformation that taps into Africa’s other riches: its fertile land, its extensive fisheries and forests, and the energy and ingenuity of its people. The Africa Progress Report 2014 describes what such a transformation would look like, and how Africa can get there.

Agriculture must be at the heart that transformation. Most Africans, including the vast majority of Africa’s poor, continue to live and work in rural areas, principally as smallholder farmers. In the absence of a flourishing agricultural sector, the majority of Africans will be cut adrift from the rising tide of prosperity.

To achieve such a transformation, Africa will need to overcome three major obstacles: a lack of access to formal financial services, the weakness of the continent’s infrastructure and the lack of funds for public investment.
The Africa Progress Report 2014 describes how African governments and their international partners can cooperate to remove those obstacles – and enable all Africans to benefit from their continent’s extraordinary wealth.

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Building on a decade of growth

Rapid economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade is worth celebrating. Growth has averaged 5 per cent a year or more, driven by domestic demand, foreign investment, strong commodity prices and improved economic governance. The ultimate measure of progress, however, is the wellbeing of people – and Africa’s current growth has not done nearly as much as it should to reduce poverty, hunger and child mortality, or to improve education.

This part of the report analyses why the benefits of growth are not being shared, and outlines the economic transformation that the continent needs to sustain long-term growth that improves the lives and prospects of all Africans.

Poverty is deeper in Africa than elsewhere: it takes more growth to lift the average poor person above the poverty threshold. High levels of initial inequality weaken the power of growth to reduce poverty. And much of Africa’s growth has been concentrated in sectors such as mining and petroleum that have little effect on rural areas, where the majority of Africa’s poor live.

Inclusive growth in agriculture holds the key to changing this picture, along with economic diversification, the spread of manufacturing and new technologies, and the development of a skilled workforce. Well-designed social welfare programmes can protect vulnerable households from shocks, support health and education, and contribute directly to growth.