Today, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) launches its annual flagship report, Foresight Africa.
Two years in, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate every narrative regarding the global economy. The future of trade, migration, travel, supply chains, economic growth, education, innovation, etc.—in Africa and elsewhere—remain constrained by the uneven recovery from this virus.
Returning to “normal” will require a truly global effort to reduce and mitigate the devastation COVID-19 has had and is continuing to have on the human and financial health of countries. Instead, we have witnessed the emergence of a parallel but diverging world: The rich and vaccinated and the poor and unvaccinated. Africa remains among the latter: As of this writing, of its 1.3 billion people, less than 11 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated. Moreover, the region is being left even further behind during the global economic recovery. This divergence in vaccination rates, the intensification of fiscal pressures, increased debt levels, and uneven economic recovery were major themes for the continent in 2021.
These themes compound the complex challenges the region was already facing, including burgeoning youth unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, and the ravages of climate change. While the pandemic forced leaders to recognize that the best way to address these problems is to promote healthy economic growth, we are in danger of falling back to insufficient or even ineffective development strategies and returning to the status quo.
Despite these obstacles, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about Africa’s future. While the region’s traditional powerhouses—e.g., Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa as well as Ethiopia—will continue to struggle in the year ahead, the International Monetary Fund forecasts strong growth for sub-Saharan Africa overall—in fact, 3.8 percent for 2022. Notably, medium-sized economies such as Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will take up the slack with growth rates above 6 percent as high commodity prices and government reforms improve finances. Smaller countries such as the Seychelles, Rwanda, Mauritius, and Niger will also reach record-high growth rates in 2022 . Moreover, we are only just beginning to see the fruits of the now-operational African Continental Free Trade Area as well as the region’s entrepreneurial and technology-savvy growing youth population.
Thus, I open this year’s Foresight Africa with a hopeful message given Africa’s proven ability to weather much of the pandemic with innovation and resilience. The Africa Growth Initiative team and I look forward to the modern, dynamic, and rising Africa captured on this year’s cover. Moreover, we hope that our approach to and innovations within the 2022 edition of Foresight Africa—including brand new themes and a more diverse and representative collection of contributors—reflects the dynamism and optimism of the region more broadly. In another change, instead of presenting the theme of good governance as a separate section, this year, each thematic chapter features a “good governance” viewpoint, underpinning the vital role of good governance in achieving Africa’s economic and political transformation.
With this and every edition of Foresight Africa, we aim to capture the top priorities for the region in the coming year, offering recommendations for African and global stakeholders for creating and supporting a strong, sustainable, and successful Africa. In doing so, we hope that Foresight Africa 2022 will promote an engaging and thoughtful dialogue on the key issues influencing development policy and practice in Africa during the upcoming year. We hope that this will ultimately lead to sound policies and strategies that sustain and expand the benefits of economic growth to all people of Africa.
We hope you will engage with us by commenting on our Foresight Africa papers, blog posts, podcasts, and graphics, and by sharing your thoughts on the top priorities this year. We also encourage you to vote for what you think should be the top priority for Africa in the year ahead. You can use #ForesightAfrica to follow the debate or send your thoughts to @BrookingsGlobal to join the conversation on Twitter. You can also leave comments on our related blog posts
We hope you can join us for our launch event on Wednesday, January 26.
We will follow up on these discussions and post additional contributions from other experts on AGI’s Africa in Focus blog throughout the year.