Africa’s Integration: Investing in our common future

Africans need more African goods and more African jobs, and so does the world. A strong and prosperous continent is an essential actor for the sustainable global economy we are aiming to build. African firms are in the spotlight; big and small –more often small—only they can deliver those goods and jobs. But they will only succeed if given the space to grow, innovate and conquer markets, starting with their own. Governments have made it a priority to create an “enabling environment”, a favourable ecosystem for African businesses. And partners in the OECD and emerging economies have pledged to help, not least by investing in the continent’s undersized infrastructure. How much have they achieved? How much remains to be done? The 2019 edition of the Forum will invites the various actors to share their views and recommendations by addressing two questions:

Two billion consumers by 2050: Are African businesses ready?

Africa’s GDP has grown by 4.6% annually on average since 2000, the second fastest rate in the world, driven largely by domestic demand for processed goods.  With the African population set to hit 2 billion by 2030, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) raises new hopes of an integrated continental pulling the continent’s industrialisation and productive transformation.  But with pervasively low levels of productivity and a lack of skilled labour, most African firms remain ill-equipped to withstand the competition of global players. How can governments create the conditions for the private sector to grow its muscle, create the decent jobs and supply the quality goods the continent needs? What policies are proving effective? And what can development partners contribute?

Connecting Africa with itself and with the world: where are the priority investments?

Africa’s economic growth has been helped by advances in trade, policies and regional integration, culminating in the ambitions of AfCFTA. However, the continent’s business systems remain inefficient. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are too often cut off from each other, preventing the circulation of technology and know-how, and unable to access markets beyond a small perimeter. Backward and forward linkages are relatively weak, regional linkages between markets are also insufficient. The average level of regional sourcing in Africa remains under 15%, compared with peaks above 80% in South East Asia. What measures can boost investments to better connect African regions with one another? What bottlenecks are impeding coordination amongst development partners? What innovative resource mobilisation approaches for regional infrastructure, human capital and skills can be emulated?

The International Economic Forum on Africa hosts Europe’s largest annual conversation on Africa’s ongoing formidable transformation. It invites African and OECD policy makers, investors, academics, civil society and international organisations to share their views, and discuss how better policies can improve development outcomes for Africans and the world.

This year, on November 29th, for the first time, the Forum was held in Madrid. The Government of Spain --who recently reaffirmed the priority given to the continent by launching its Africa Plan III— teamed up with the OECD Development Centre and the African Union, along with partners Casa Africa, Casa Árabe and the French Development Agency (AFD) to host it.