IOA Position Papers

Coronavirus reshaping the way African societies are looking at alcohol consumption

By James Hall

Analysis in brief: South Africa’s ban on the sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages came as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the immediate success the ban has produced in lowering deaths, injuries and domestic violence raises the obvious question of how to retain these benefits when the ban is lifted at the end of the crisis. Alcohol abuse in South Africa is just one social malady that may get the attention and remedial action it deserves as society re-examines itself in the wake of the historic pandemic.

South Africa is the bellwether of Sub-Saharan Africa. From providing a new model for African democracy in the post-Cold War era to showing how a diversified economy buttressed by cutting-edge technology and good transportation infrastructure produces the most vibrant economy, Africa’s southern-most nation has been the paradigm to be emulated. With the outbreak of Covid-19, South Africa’s mitigation strategy, most notably its nationwide lockdown, has been duplicated by neighbouring countries. One mitigation that seemed radical for Africa’s largest wine producer and exporter was a ban on the sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages. Yet, no public objection arose because the need was explained, and the benefits were soon apparent. Three weeks after South Africa imposed the ban, the World Health Organisation on 14 April 2020 recommended that alcohol consumption should be restricted to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

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Is Africa possibly more prepared to handle the COVID-19 outbreak than initially thought?

By Judith Mondo

Analysis in brief: Despite Africa’s well-known vulnerability to infectious outbreaks, the continent has shown great resilience in handling the COVID-19 outbreak so far. Many African countries have responded relatively quickly to testing and containment measures, which have significantly slowed the spread of contagion and saved the continent some precious time to ramp up healthcare resources. A number of factors have contributed to the continent’s preparedness, including the experiences learnt in dealing with previous epidemics such as Cholera and Ebola.

The new coronavirus, which originated in China almost four months ago, currently constitutes one of the biggest threats to humanity, claiming thousands of lives and sickening over a million others worldwide. The virus has extended to more than 200 countries and territories around the globe, has infected over 2 million people and killed more than 140,000 others as of the April 17th, 2020. In Africa, the spread of the virus has been slow relative to the rest of the world. Compared to the United States (US) for example, where the number of COVID-19 cases has risen exponentially from around 35,000 in the second week of March to over 670,000 presently (Johns Hopkins University, 2020), Africa has reported over 16,200 positive cases during the same period (Africanews, 2020).

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The Coronavirus will accelerate growth in Africa’s online economy, ultimately helping to close the digital divide

By James Hall

Analysis in brief: The global pandemic COVID-19 has already hit Africa’s economies hard. Mobile money and other on-line financial solutions that have taken root in recent years are providing valuable financial services and are keeping economies functioning. Having proved their essentialness during this crisis, e-commerce and digital networks can expect investment from governments and the international private sector, as well as further consumer growth in the coming years.

The medical crisis presented by the Coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented for Africa. The recurring Ebola outbreaks were restricted to particular countries and at worse were sub-regional in scope. But COVID-19 is continental, indeed global in its reach. The crisis has struck the economies of every African nation hard, as well as Africa’s trading partners abroad. The closest comparison to social and economic disruption from a medical crisis would be HIV/AIDS, which has also impacted all African economies. However, the sexually-transmitted disease is far harder to transmit than COVID-19, and its spread was measured in years, not in days.

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The Trade Fair Fad – seeking alliances in the guise of making money

By James Hall

Analysis in brief: African nations are being wooed by the world’s major powers as alliance partners. Trade is the calling card, but make no mistake, the mission of Britain, China, the EU, Russia and the US is to line up allies to their own advantage.

Africa continues to be touted for its economic promise for tomorrow and yet has commodities, products and markets that foreign powers desire today. Indeed, due to Africa’s population growth, by 2050 a quarter of the world’s consumers will be African. However, much as with the case of commodities, investors want profits today. The combined economic output of all African countries is less than Italy’s, however, Africa has more than fifty times the diplomatic clout than Italy: 54 United Nations votes against Italy’s one. In the guise of increasing trade, foreign powers are seeking alliances for diplomatic advantage, or in the case of the US, to get African cooperation on security issues.

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African nations lay the groundwork for sustainable social services – ACBR 2019

By James Hall

Analysis in brief: The ability of African countries to deliver competent social services to their populations is incrementally improving but has far to go against a background of widespread poverty, poor education and food insecurity.

The measures of Africa’s societal progress are on a gradual upward trend. While this trend is encouraging, much remains to be accomplished to ensure that all of Africa’s people acquire optimal education, food security, healthcare and other necessities of life. The Society quadrant is one of the four quadrants in which African data is divided in the 2019 edition of the Africa Country Benchmark Report (ACBR). The other three quadrants – Business, Economics and Politics – are all components used to make societies better; influencing standards of living, personal health, education and overall social welfare. How business communities, domestic economies and national governments are performing in their roles are ultimately assessed in how well citizens live.

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Improved Freedom scores suggest Africa achieving democracy – ACBR 2019

By James Hall

Analysis in brief: While Africa’s Politics scores are generally low, the African people themselves, along with human rights activists and political reformers, have worked to make Freedom the highest-scoring segment in the 2019 Africa Country Benchmark Report.

Of the five Politics quadrant segments surveyed in the 2019 edition of the Africa Country Benchmark Report (ACBR) – Democracy, Freedom, Governance, Justice and Stability – Freedom scores the highest. Several major governance, human rights and political indicators were tabulated and analysed in the ACBR 2019 to determine how Africa was performing politically on a national, regional and continental level. The concept of freedom is both the foundation for modern society – the state exists to support individuals’ freedom of thought, speech, religion, ability to earn a livelihood, engage in a lifestyle of their choice and to be safe and secure – and the end-product of a successful political system.

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The impact of microfinance on smallholder farming households in Africa: Evidence from Zambia

By Alana Stewart

Analysis in brief: The main objective of this paper is to investigate whether increasing access to microfinance institutions can help smallholder farmers in Africa achieve certain key development priorities. Based on a Zambian case study, the results of this analysis found that increasing access to microcredit helps foster improvements in both income and financial stability among smallholder farming households in Africa. However, the results show no evidence that increased access to microfinance helps to generate livelihood improvements. As such, this paper suggests that microfinance services in Africa could be much more effective in improving livelihoods if they started introducing more flexible programmes that are better suited to local needs.

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Market Freedom: Where African economies score highest – ACBR 2019

By James Hall

Analysis in brief: While doing better than other Business segments in the latest Africa Country Benchmark Report, as well as reflecting progress made away from command economies and state monopolies, Market Freedom has further to advance to properly drive economic change in Africa.

Led by the liberalisation of economies in North and Southern Africa, Market Freedom is the highest scoring segment continentally in the Business quadrant of the newly released Africa Country Benchmark Report (ACBR) for 2019. This is good news for African businesses, which contend with bureaucratic red tape and other state restrictions to their operations. Economically, Market Freedom lays the foundation for growth and is the enabler for the other four ACBR Business segments: Consumption, Labour, Production and Technology. However, the continent-wide score for Market Freedom acquired by averaging the five regional scores – Central, East, North, Southern and West Africa – whose scores are in turn averaged from their constituent countries’ scores, is a mediocre 51.34 points. If Market Freedom is the platform on which the business community of Africa rises, this is a shaky foundation. The good news is that African countries are beginning to recognise and embrace the need for deregulation and the facilitation of doing business. This is evidenced by widespread economic reforms and that no government is openly advocating Marxism like in years past.

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Africa and Brexit: An opportunity for a holistic re-think of African trade

By James Hall

Analysis in brief: Britain’s departure from the European Union has meant African countries must re-negotiate UK trade agreements. This comes at a time when a continent possessed of growing prosperity and self-assertiveness is re-imaging trade as a means for development and not just profit.

African nations face negotiation of trade agreements with one of its oldest trading partners, Britain, as the latter leaves the European Union (EU) officially on 31 January 2020. In June 2016, a 52% majority of British voters chose to exit (or “Brexit”) the political and economic union of 28 member states. How Africa would benefit – having an additional trade partner or having a trade partner diminished as a market and as an economy – has been a matter of speculation among African economist during the subsequent years of Britain-EU negotiations. What is clear is that this opportunity allows for a new beginning with regards to Africa-British relations. In a 2018 visit to Cape Town, then British Prime Minister Theresa May rebooted relations from a focus on aid to an emphasis on trade and partnerships. But Africa is now also in a strong position to define relations. As Ghana President wrote to current British PM Boris Johnson at the latter’s election victory, “We have an opportunity, together, to renew and strengthen the relations between our two countries, focusing on enhancing trade and investment, and scaling up prosperity for our peoples.”

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World War III and Africa: Assessing the potential impact of increasing US-Iranian tensions

By Tertius Mynhardt Jacobs

Analysis in brief: With Trump’s execution of the renowned and highly (locally) respected Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the tension between the USA and Iran has significantly been exacerbated. If the case of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is used as a benchmark then Soleimani’s assassination is considerably more disconcerting for the world. While it is a given that the conflict between the USA and Iran will have a severe impact on the Middle East, the topic of war between these two states and the potential for wider conflict in the form of World War III leaves questions as to the extent that African countries might be impacted. To this end, this position paper briefly outlines the recent developments of the USA-Iran conflict and aims to assess the various routes through which African countries will feel the impact of this contemporary conflict.

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Investment and trade are driving economic growth in Africa – ACBR 2019

By James Hall

Analysis in brief: Investment and trade go hand in hand with economic growth. The latest Africa Country Benchmark Report shows that these underpin African economies that perform the best in this year’s in-depth analysis of African country performance.

The exhaustive analysis of leading economic indicators – providing insight into the performances of African economies gauged by individual countries, both regionally and continentally – shows a strong link between economic growth and investment and trade. This connection, which is the basis for optimism over the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), is established in the findings of the 2019 edition of the Africa Country Benchmark Report (ACBR).

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