Africa Flagships

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Top-priority publications representing the most important issues for the Region.

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Digital Africa: Technological Transformation for Jobs

2023-03-13, Begazo, Tania, Dutz, Mark Andrew, Blimpo, Moussa

All African countries need better and more jobs for their growing populations. "Digital Africa: Technological Transformation for Jobs" shows that broader use of productivity-enhancing, digital technologies by enterprises and households is imperative to generate such jobs, including for lower-skilled people. At the same time, it can support not only countries’ short-term objective of postpandemic economic recovery but also their vision of economic transformation with more inclusive growth. These outcomes are not automatic, however. Mobile internet availability has increased throughout the continent in recent years, but Africa’s uptake gap is the highest in the world. Areas with at least 3G mobile internet service now cover 84 percent of Africa’s population, but only 22 percent uses such services. And the average African business lags in the use of smartphones and computers as well as more sophisticated digital technologies that catalyze further productivity gains. Two issues explain the usage gap: affordability of these new technologies and willingness to use them. For the 40 percent of Africans below the extreme poverty line, mobile data plans alone would cost one-third of their incomes—in addition to the price of access devices, apps, and electricity. Data plans for small- and medium-size businesses are also more expensive than in other regions. Moreover, shortcomings in the quality of internet services—and in the supply of attractive, skills-appropriate apps that promote entrepreneurship and raise earnings—dampen people’s willingness to use them. For those countries already using these technologies, the development payoffs are significant. New empirical studies for this report add to the rapidly growing evidence that mobile internet availability directly raises enterprise productivity, increases jobs, and reduces poverty throughout Africa. To realize these and other benefits more widely, Africa’s countries must implement complementary and mutually reinforcing policies to strengthen both consumers’ ability to pay and willingness to use digital technologies. These interventions must prioritize productive use to generate large numbers of inclusive jobs in a region poised to benefit from a massive, youthful workforce—one projected to become the world’s largest by the end of this century.

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Boosting Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Policies and Institutions to Promote Efficiency

2022-01-03, Calderon, Cesar

This book documents the productivity trends in Sub-Saharan Africa in three different dimensions, assessing productivity at the aggregate level, the sectoral level, and the establishment level. It characterizes the evolution of productivity in the region relative to other countries and regions, as well as country groups in Africa, classified by their degree of natural resource abundance and condition of fragility. The volume suggests that the persistence of the productivity gap in Africa vis-à-vis the technological frontier can be attributed to the slow accumulation of physical and human capital relative to the region’s growing population, as well as the poor allocation of these resources. These allocative inefficiencies are the outcome of policies and institutions that introduce distortions in the decision-making process of individuals. Hence, the volume assesses the implications of production decisions across agricultural farms and manufacturing firms. It presents evidence on aggregate productivity from the perspective of production units, using recent household surveys for farmers and firm-level surveys for select countries, as well as frontier estimation techniques. It documents the extent of severe resource misallocation across agricultural and manufacturing production units. These distortions decelerate the growth of the production units, disincentivize their adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies, and reduce the ability of their peers to learn new techniques. Boosting Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa highlights the adoption of digital technologies to reduce some of these market frictions. Mobile money has increased financial inclusion in several countries, and digital financial technologies have given individuals access to savings instruments and loan products. Enhancing access to credit can help individuals invest in schooling and overcome the costs of formality. The volume discusses further avenues of research that may provide additional insights on the productivity dynamics across countries in the region, and it identifies the different channels of policy transmission to enhance productivity. The empirical work presented can help to guide the design of policy in the region.

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Poverty in a Rising Africa

2016-03, Beegle, Kathleen, Christiaensen, Luc, Dabalen, Andrew, Gaddis, Isis

Perceptions of Africa have changed dramatically. Viewed as a continent of wars, famines and entrenched poverty in the late 1990s, there is now a focus on “Africa rising” and an “African 21st century.” Two decades of unprecedented economic growth in Africa should have brought substantial improvements in well-being. Whether or not they did, remains unclear given the poor quality of the data, the nature of the growth process (especially the role of natural resources), conflicts that affect part of the region, and high population growth. Poverty in a Rising Africa documents the data challenges and systematically reviews the evidence on poverty from monetary and nonmonetary perspectives, as well as a focus on dimensions of inequality. Chapter 1 maps out the availability and quality of the data needed to track monetary poverty, reflects on the governance and political processes that underpin the current situation with respect to data production, and describes some approaches to addressing the data gaps. Chapter 2 evaluates the robustness of the estimates of poverty in Africa. It concludes that poverty reduction in Africa may be slightly greater than traditional estimates suggest, although even the most optimistic estimates of poverty reduction imply that more people lived in poverty in 2012 than in 1990. A broad-stroke profile of poverty and trends in poverty in the region is presented. Chapter 3 broadens the view of poverty by considering nonmonetary dimensions of well-being, such as education, health, and freedom, using Sen's (1985) capabilities and functioning approach. While progress has been made in a number of these areas, levels remain stubbornly low. Chapter 4 reviews the evidence on inequality in Africa. It looks not only at patterns of monetary inequality in Africa but also other dimensions, including inequality of opportunity, intergenerational mobility in occupation and education, and extreme wealth in Africa.