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Attendees at the recently ended World Economic Forum Africa tackled a considerable number of issues head-on, with many solutions tabled down.

Among the solutions presented at the yearly conference was the release of the Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, which encourages competition that is urgently needed to meet Africa’s demographic challenges. Read the report here

Competitiveness is defined as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity – and hence future prosperity – of a country.

“Removing the hurdles that prevent Africa from fulfilling its competitiveness potential is the first step required to achieve more sustained economic progress and shared prosperity,” the World Economic Forum’s head of the centre for the global agenda and member of the managing board, Richard Samans, noted.

The report states that the ability of sub-Saharan Africa’s economies to generate enough jobs for its young and growing population rests on the successful implementation of urgent reforms to boost productivity. Read more…

The report suggests policy priorities should include reform to improve the quality of institutions, infrastructure, skills and adoption of new technology.

Furthermore, house construction and better urban planning present opportunities for short-term competitiveness gains, it stated.

“To meet the aspirations of their growing youth populations, African governments are well-advised to enact policies that improve levels of productivity and the business environment for trade and investment,” the World Bank Group’s Klaus Tilmes, director of the trade and competitiveness for global practice, said.

“The World Bank Group is helping governments and the private sector across Africa to take the steps necessary to build strong economies and accelerate job creation in order to benefit from the potential demographic dividend,” Tilmes added.

Africa Competitiveness findings

Compounding the challenge to Africa’s leaders, is a rapidly expanding population, which is set to add 450 million more to the labour force over the next two decades, the report said.

According to the study, under current policies, only 100 million jobs look set to be created during this period.

Africa’s young, dynamic population does possess the potential to lead an economic revival in the region, backed by targeted long- and short-term reforms in key areas, the report finds. Priority action areas for improved competitiveness include:

Long term:

  • Strengthening institutions is a pre-condition to enable faster and more effective policy implementation; failure of implementation in the past has often been attributed to weak institutions
  • Improved infrastructure, to enable greater levels of trade and business growth
  • Greater adoption of technology
  • Developing the right skills to remain competitive in a rapidly changing global economic landscape

Short term:

  • Prioritising sector-specific reforms in labour-intensive sectors such as agri-business, construction and micro-enterprises
  • Targeted support for vulnerable regions and/or populations in fragile countries
  • Open trade policies to foster regional economic integration
  • Developing value-chain links to extractive sectors to encourage diversification in resource-rich countries
  • Increase housing construction through investment, better urban planning and less bureaucracy

The report is jointly produced by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.