IOA Position Papers

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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The 4th industrial revolution in Africa: The next great frontier

By Jacques du Preez

Analysis in brief: The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now underway and is set to forever change the way in which economies relate to each other in the global market. This is a vital opportunity for the rapidly developing African economies to assert themselves as vital hubs in the international manufacturing sector.

What is the fourth industrial revolution?

The 4th industrial revolution, otherwise known as the ‘Digital Industrial revolution’ or ‘Industry 4.0’, or simply ‘4IR’ is a broad term used to describe the ongoing global conversion of labour-intensive manufacturing processes toward incorporating robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, customer service personalisation and other forms of digital innovation, pointing to a future where the knowledge economy and the manufacturing sector are in effect, inseparable. Like earlier industrial revolutions, those quickest to utilise these new technologies will reap the most benefit. Some estimates place the profits reaped by early adopting firms at almost 120%, with a measly 10% for those who only adopt these new technologies later on. Far from being at a disadvantage, Africa’s lack of legacy infrastructure might prove to be a key ingredient in securing its industries’ positions in the new global economy that the 4IR will bring about. Industrial growth in this context can be viewed through two key focus areas: the conventional development of an industrial base and the fostering of a local knowledge economy.

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Who to vote for? Examining the top contenders in South Africa’s 2019 elections

By Tertius Mynhardt Jacobs

Analysis in brief: With 19 of Africa’s 55 countries hosting national elections, 2019 promises to be an interesting year filled with hope and change. Among these elections, there are a few that stand out. South Africa’s election, in particular, is of great significance to the Southern African region and the continent more broadly. By relating the proposed policies of major political contenders to key challenges confronting South African democracy, this analysis seeks to inform readers of dominant voting options and the content of dominant parties’ manifestos.

NOTE TO READER: This paper does not intend to specify which political party is the overall ‘best party’. Instead, it has drawn from the manifestos of each party to gauge the stance of South Africa’s top 12, assessing how they differ and how well prepared they are to tackle the issues that are dividing South Africans. With this in mind, the reader is urged to explore the manifestos in which they express interest to truly understand who their preferred party is and how they intend to remedy South Africa’s array of challenges. Only then can one make an informed decision come election day.

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Africa’s disaster response: Continent-wide coordination required

By James Hall

Analysis in Brief: The destruction of a major port city and loss of life in one of Africa’s biggest recorded storms may be the impetus to create a continental authority to manage disasters that arrive with greater power and frequency as a result of climate change.

The destruction Cyclone Idai wrought on the Southern African countries Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in March 2019 claimed over 700 lives, obliterated Mozambique’s port city, Beira, and flooded 138,000 km²of crop land. Cholera became the immediate threat and diminished harvests are a mid-term eventuality. The response of the 13-state regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), was very little given the scope of the calamity and when compared with the work and contributions of overseas aid organisations who immediately rushed in to assist. A SADC representative said the body was surprised by the cyclone’s power and was not prepared for the devastation unleashed.

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Towards Africa taking joint ownership of Artificial Intelligence

By Dr. Mary Carman[1] and Dr. Benjamin Rosman[2]

Analysis in brief: Africa has the potential to be an active agent in the development of emerging technologies around artificial intelligence (AI) and not simply a place where these technologies are implemented. But in order to do so, it is necessary to think critically about where research attention in Africa should be focused, as well as how to guide the various aspects of research in a way that is sensitive to capabilities and interests specific to African peoples.

Research and development into emerging technologies around artificial intelligence (AI) is thriving the world over. African countries too are developing the capacity to contribute to this growing field. Indeed, Africa has the potential to take joint ownership of AI and not just be a playground where these technologies from elsewhere are implemented. For instance, the first major international machine learning conference in Africa – the International Conference of Learning Representations (ICLR) – will be held in Ethiopia in 2020, representing the first major opportunity for African researchers to attend a large conference on home soil and dramatically increase interaction between African and international researchers. But in order to take ownership and maximise a role for Africa, we need to think critically about how to guide the various aspects of research in a way that is sensitive to African capabilities and interests.

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Health (in)security and migration: African lessons for a world in transition

By Annamarie Bindenagel Šehović

Analysis in Brief: Global health security lies at the intersection of Europe and Africa, between inherited state-based intervention and a new regional, global approach. Given this, it is vital to redefine health security and it is imperative that this new definition include cross-border populations. Likewise, knowledge exchange in both definitional scope and political and experimental approaches across Africa and beyond is an important contributor to health security in a globalised world.
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