GDP Growth: AfDB Seeks Urgent Investment In Education, Infrastructure

Projects 3.9% African GDP Growth On Muted Rise In Nigeria, 4 Others
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, on Thursday in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire challenged political leaders across the continent on the need for urgent investment in education and infrastructure as a guarantee of appreciable long-term GDP growth.
Adesina, who spoke when he unveiled the 2020 African Economic Outlook, also noted the need for priority attention to the soaring rate of “youth unemployment,” lamenting a situation where 12m graduates enter the labour market yearly.
Unfortunately, he continued, only three million jobs are on offer, following which “the mountain of youth unemployment is rising annually.”
According to the Economic Outlook, Africa’s economic growth was stable in 2019 at 3.4% and could pick up to 3.9% this year, before inching higher at 4.1% in 2021.
This slower than expected growth, it noted, is partly due to the moderate expansion of the continent’s “big five” —Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco, with a joint average growth rate of 3.1%, compared with the average of 4% for the rest of the continent.
The 2020 outlook themed Developing Africa’s workforce for the future, noted the urgent need to address Africa’s education, skills mismatch, urging for swift action to address human capital development on the continent.
The quantity and quality of human capital in Africa, the report stressed, is much lower than in other regions of the world, besides calling urgently for capacity building, while offering several policy recommendations.
It also noted the need to develop a demand-driven productive workforce to meet industry needs, especially as “Africa needs to build skills in information and communication technology and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will place increasing demands on educational systems that are producing graduates versed in these skills,” the report noted.
To keep the current level of unemployment constant, Africa needs to create 12 million jobs every year, according to the report. With rapid technological change expected to disrupt labour markets further, it is urgent that countries address fundamental bottlenecks to creating human capital, the report said.
For Adesina, who unveiled the report, Africa must begin to “look at the real lives beyond the statistics. Let’s hear their voices, let’s feel their aspirations.”
According to the report, in 2019, for the first time in a decade, investment expenditure, rather than consumption, accounted for over 50% of GDP growth. This shift can help sustain and potentially accelerate future growth in Africa, increase the continent’s current and future productive base while improving the productivity of the workforce.
Overall, the forecast described the continent’s growth fundamentals as improved, driven by a gradual shift toward investments and net exports, and away from private consumption.
East Africa maintained its lead as the continent’s fastest-growing region, with average growth estimated at 5.0% in 2019; North Africa followed with 4.1%, while West Africa’s growth rose to 3.7 percent in 2019, up from 3.4% the year before.
Central Africa grew at 3.2% in 2019, up from 2.7% in 2018, while Southern Africa’s growth slowed considerably over the same period, from 1.2% to 0.7%, dragged down by the devastating cyclones Idai and Kenneth.
Although many countries experienced strong growth indicators, relatively few posted significant declines in extreme poverty and inequality, which remain higher than in other regions of the world.
Essentially, inclusive growth — registering faster average consumption for the poor and lower inequality between different population segments — occurred in only 18 of 48 African countries with data.
“As we enter a new decade, the African Development Bank looks to our people. Africa is blessed with resources but its future lies in its people- education is the great equalizer. Only by developing our workforce will we make a dent in poverty, close the income gap between rich and poor, and adopt new technologies to create jobs in knowledge-intensive sectors,” said Hanan Morsy, Director of the Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research Department at the bank.
The African Economic Outlook, according to a statement by Emeka Anuforo, of AfDB’s Communication and External Relations Department, provides compelling up-to-date evidence and analytics to inform and support African decision-makers. The publication has built a strong profile as a tool for economic intelligence, policy dialogue, and operational effectiveness.