At the IMF and World Bank 2022 Annual meetings, delegates, speakers, journalists and other stakeholders gathered on Friday October, 15th for the first in-person session on Africa since the pandemic began. The topic for this session was State of the Africa Region: Opportunities in a Turbulent Time. At a time where circumstances, regional setbacks and economic tremors have put Africa on a backfoot, policymakers have to figure out how best to magnify positives and exploit possible opportunities to make the region fare better.
Andrew Dabalen, Chief Economist, Africa, World Bank spoke after the introductory speech. He spoke in response to the moderator’s Question on how Africa can deal with rising inflation, interest rates and lower incomes. He stated that it is important for Africa to maintain the economic gains it had made in previous years. According to him, this can be achieved in 3 important steps;
- Restore price stability.
- Protect the poor and the vulnerable by funding the programs that they rely on, especially education and health.
- Paying attention to the quality and efficiency of spending.
Victoria Kwakwa, Vice President, Eastern and Southern Africa, World Bank spoke right after Andrew and she expounded on the current issues plaguing the region, going in depth in the harsh external environments that have affected the level of poverty in Africa. Troubling issues which are really worrying are low education access, abuse against women and girls, and a dire lack of access to electricity. Youth unemployment is also a worrying case. For a region with a very high population of youths, the high employment rate is a big challenge for governments to overcome. Policy leaders in Africa also had the opportunity to speak on the issues and solutions to them. This part of the session was very impactful as it involved a lot of breakdown by finance leaders from the countries represented. Inflation was a common theme, for a region already struggling with poverty rates, the rising interest rates and rising dollar rates against the currencies mean that more and more people in Africa are going below the poverty line. The common theme in solutions
The State of the Africa Region event took stock of global headwinds affecting the region and provided a timely overview of macroeconomic trends, given the slowing GDP, high debt, and historically high food and energy prices. The discussion specifically focused on measures that can deliver big wins for food security on the continent, such as better-targeted public spending, investments in food transformation and resilient food systems, and stronger intra-regional trade.
The session began with a speech from the moderator In which she highlighted the many positives in Africa. She spoke about technological advancements and cities like Lagos and Nairobi which are bustling economic centres. “In the heavy rains of the world, there are rays of sunshine in Africa”.
suggested or reported by the leaders was better management of spending. Africa is blessed with a number of profitable raw materials and it is important that the profits are adequately managed now more than ever to help alleviate the stress of a growing financial strain. The interest rates were also a common reference as the rising levels are a growing problem which can only be handled technically and carefully by the policymakers.
Countries like Rwanda were praised during the session. A spotlight was shone on the policies which are currently working in the country, directed towards highlighting what has worked in order to figure out what can be reproduced to work in other countries.
Food security was also spoken about. Monica Musonda, Chief Executive Officer, of Java Foods spoke smartly on Agriculture in Africa. She spoke on how unsustainable it is for a large part of the food consumed by Africans to be imported. Certain roadblocks like the pandemic and the Ukraine conflict have stunted the rate of import and so self-sufficiency by primary agriculture is an important discourse. She suggested that better efforts should be focused on local businesses to produce sufficient and supply efficiently. She challenged all the government heads available to put in more effort to create an enabling environment for local food businesses. Producing safe, affordable and quality food is the goal and all policymakers involved should put in more effort to achieve it. Mechanising farming and processing is very important, but empowering the process is more about the supply, especially as locally it affects the population involved in the food processing, especially women.
The session ended with a round-up from a few of the speakers. The advancements and important markers from certain successful countries were importantly highlighted. Rwanda, Botswana, Kenya and a few others were praised for their progress in technology, in maximisation of windfalls from resources, and so on. It was also mentioned that the private sector will play a huge role as well. The moderator ended by urging the policymakers to heed to ideas brought up and “just do it”.