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As African economies look to implement sustainable development, what should they focus on? Here are five action areas:
Transform agriculture and land use: Some 60 percent of employment is still in agriculture, a sector with low levels of productivity by international standards. Low crop yields and rapid population growth have pushed the expansion of cropland to address food security challenges, but this has simultaneously contributed to deforestation and increased vulnerability to climate change.
Policymakers should look to intensify agriculture to boost yields and explore climate-smart farming techniques.
Diversify into manufacturing and other high productivity sectors.
As countries look to higher productivity sectors such as industry and high-value services to drive growth, they should look to exploit opportunities to “green” existing production processes where it is economically beneficial.
New markets domestically, regionally, and internationally could also open up, and there may be opportunities for import substitution.
Strengthening infrastructure, particularly around energy and transport will be crucial.
By 2050, the population of sub-Saharan Africa’s cities will increase by almost 800 million people. This is nearly half of the projected rise in numbers of the urban population globally. Many cities are experiencing the effects of poor urban development and urban sprawl.
Weak city governments lack resources to fund the required urban infrastructure and public services. For example, Nairobi and Dakar have only $10–15 per year per inhabitant for capital expenditures, and most cities have much less—meaning some areas will get only inadequate basic services.
A shift towards more compact, connected, and coordinated urban development will assist in creating a better model for urban growth.
Foster a modern energy transition.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s per capita energy consumption is 15 percent of that in OECD countries, and the increasing demand for energy over coming decades will be vast. This will require both grid and off-grid solutions.
While fossil fuels will be part of the story, the continent has an enormously rich portfolio of clean energy assets, which are increasingly cost competitive even without considering the wider social and environmental benefits.
For example, sub- Saharan Africa has about 1,100 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity, 350 GW of hydro, and 109 GW of wind.
There is also an opportunity to exploit current technologies to promote energy efficiency to reduce the required expansion of supply.
Keep working on the “basics.”
A number of areas are critical whatever the future development trajectory looks like. For example, while gender inequality has fallen in Africa, it stills remains higher than elsewhere in the world.
Such an outcome directly raises women’s inclusion and welfare, and also benefits economic productivity—for example by breaking down barriers to education.
Editor’s note: Highlights from report by Africa Growth Initiative titled Foresight Africa, Top Priorities for the Continent in 2017