President, African Development Bank Group
Jim Yong Kim
President, World Bank Group
Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
The 2017 edition of The Africa Competitiveness Report comes out at a challenging time for the continent. In recent years, growth in several African countries has been subdued after more than a decade of solid expansion. The slowdown is largely due to the protracted low commodity prices as well as the reduced growth in emerging markets such as China, and in advanced economies. However, this situation has also given impetus to reforms and economic diversification. The strong economic performance of a number of African countries demonstrates Africa’s resilience and brings optimism about Africa’s future growth prospects.
Looking ahead, the continent’s young and increasing population presents an unprecedented opportunity to spur rapid development. A growing labor force and a large and emerging consumer market hold the promise of significant growth opportunities. Yet challenges to reaping these potential gains and achieving greater shared prosperity remain. Most economies in the region still need to promote more productive activities that generate quality employment opportunities for their growing populations and contribute to improving the livelihoods of African people. Africa can make this happen, and decisions and actions taken today will determine whether governments and the private sector in the region can meet the growing economic and social aspirations of its population.
Published on a biennial basis, The Africa Competitiveness Report highlights areas requiring policy action and investment to ensure that Africa lays a solid foundation for sustained and inclusive growth. The Report, which is the result of a long-standing collaboration, leverages the knowledge and expertise of the African Development Bank, the World Bank Group, and the World Economic Forum to present a joint policy vision that can help Africa transform its economies.
By conducting a comprehensive analysis of Africa’s most pressing competitiveness challenges, the Report discusses the barriers and challenges to putting Africa’s economies onto a solid footing and helping them to achieve sustainable, broad-based growth, taking into account rapid demographic changes. Africa’s working-age population is expected to soar by 450 million people, or close to 70 percent, by 2035. The Report examines how this population growth can either help to achieve broader shared prosperity and improve the livelihood of African people or become a source of fragility, social tension, and economic hardships. It does so by examining the potential of Africa’s fast-growing youth population to catalyze economic development through accelerating rates of job creation. It also discusses the potential of cities to transform, strengthen, and diversify Africa’s economies by creating more dynamic urban manufacturing and service sectors. The Report emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the youth of today and tomorrow possess the skills they need to build vibrant and inclusive economies. It further delivers detailed competitiveness profiles for 35 African countries, and provides a comprehensive summary of the drivers of productivity and competitiveness within the continent.
We hope that this year’s Report will stimulate discussion among development stakeholders to bring about sustained growth and shared prosperity in Africa. Well-targeted investments in physical and human capital will be key factors that need to be further reinforced by a sound institutional framework and an enabling business environment. Businesses can advocate for reforms that enhance firm productivity and engage in a dialogue with policymakers about the type of reforms required for firms to prosper. Governments can ensure sustained investments in infrastructure, health, and education; provide the legal and regulatory framework for a sound business environment for trade and investment; and, most importantly, ensure that policies and their implementation are consistent across time and national boundaries.
Africa’s growing young population offers the prospect of transforming the continent. The analysis in the 2017 Africa Competitiveness Report aims to contribute toward seizing this opportunity for Africa’s current and future generations.