Each year, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) uses the occasion of the New Year to identify key issues, events, and trends likely to shape affairs in African countries in the coming months and years. Over the years, Foresight Africa has become one of Brookings’ highest-profile annual reports, with some of the Institution’s highest readership and policy uptake. Foresight Africa 2020 a special edition focusing on the top priorities for the continent over the next decade: 2020-2030. In order to reach more audiences, especially those in Africa, AGI Director and Senior Fellow Brahima S. Coulibaly traveled to Uganda, Rwanda, and Senegal to share the insights and recommendations in the report with audiences there. Below are some of the insights that arose from those discussions.
On January 24, AGI partnered with the Economic Policy Research Centre to launch the report in Kampala. Following the opening remarks by Prof. Ezra Suruma, chancellor of Makerere University, and Rosa Malango, resident coordinator for Uganda for the United Nations, as well as Coulibaly’s presentation, Samson Kasumba, journalist and news anchor for NBS TV, moderated a panel discussion. In addition to Coulibaly, panelists included Julius Kiiza, professor of political science and public administration at Makerere University; David O. Okello, the director of noncommunicable diseases at African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST); and Francis Mangeni, former director of trade and monetary affairs at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Throughout the discussion, the panelists emphasized the importance and challenges of building strong governance structures and institutions, addressing high fertility and mortality rates, and closing the skills gap among the youth. The panelists also highlighted issues such as investing in manufacturing, balancing human capital development and infrastructure development, building systems to govern innovation, and reforming curricula to promote entrepreneurship. According to several of the panelists, new opportunities, including those around the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, show promise, though challenges around persistent poverty and ballooning national debt loom large. Dr. Mangeni summed up the call to action by saying, “We can never have the Africa we want unless we have the Africans we want.”
Following the panel discussion, the audience was eager to discuss the economization of politics, economic dependence issues, fertility management, empowering youth with education and skills, closing the gap between leaders and youth, addressing corruption, and attracting and nurturing innovations and innovators.
On January 25, AGI partnered with the International Growth Centre for the launch event in Kigali. The event’s panel discussion was moderated by Louise Umutoni, government specialist at the U.K. Department for International Development. In addition to Coulibaly, panelists included Leonard Rugwabiza, economic adviser for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda; Youssef Travaly, vice president of the Next Einstein Forum and a Foresight Africa contributor; and Josephine Uwamariya, country director for Rwanda at ActionAid International.
As in Kampala, panelists engaged in a vibrant discussion around debt sustainability and how governments can best finance the recommendations made in the report. Improving, expanding, and financing education was also a main point of discussion. Notably, the role of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) came up—particularly the tension between job creation and the adoption of advanced technology like artificial intelligence. Panelists agreed that the 4IR is creating unprecedented opportunities in health, education, and other areas, but its threat to jobs should not be ignored.
In Dakar, AGI partnered with the Laboratoire d’Analyse des Politiques de Développement at the University Cheikh Anta Diop. The event was moderated by Danielle Paquette, the Washington Post’s West Africa bureau chief, and featured five panelists: Coulibaly; Cheikh Kanté, minister in charge of the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (Plan Sénégal Emergant); Ismaïla Madior Fall, minister of state to the president of Senegal; Karima Bounemra, director of the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; and Ahmadou Aly Mbaye, nonresident senior fellow at AGI and director of Laboratoire d’Analyse des Politiques de Développement.
Overall, the panelists were optimistic about Africa’s growth more generally and Senegal’s accomplishments specifically. Democracy, good governance, financing for development, and job creation for youth were some of the top issues discussed. As in Kigali, the issue of curbing fertility rates in Africa was also a topic of discussion.
After each program, the panelists answered questions from the audience.