Foresight Africa: Top priorities for Africa in 2016


Photo: Mutua Matheka Photography

Africa is at a tipping point in 2016. Despite all the success the continent has achieved in recent years, new and old dangers—economic, political, and security-related—threaten to derail its progress. With sound policymaking, effective leadership, and enough foresight, however—Africa can meet and defeat these challenges as well as the many more to come.

In this year’s Foresight Africa, the Africa Growth Initiative and its colleagues discuss six overarching themes that place Africa at this tipping point and give their view on what they perceive to be key areas for intervention to keep Africa on its current rising trajectory. This year’s format is different from years past, encompassing viewpoints from high-level policymakers, academics, and practitioners, as well as utilizing visuals to better illustrate the paths behind and now in front of Africa.

 Explore the full report »
Managing Economic Shocks: African Prospects in the Evolving External Environment

In this chapter, Amadou Sy explores the recent external economic shocks to African economies—including the economic slowdown in China, declines in commodity prices, and the likely continued U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate hikes—that have affected and will continue to affect growth trajectories in the region. With growth slowing across the continent in 2016, policymakers must take this opportunity to discuss and enact economic policy reform for both the short and long terms.

 Read chapter 1 »
Sustaining Domestic Growth: Structural Transformation Depends on Jobs, Industry, and SMEs

Growth in Asia and elsewhere has shown that industrialization is crucial to job creation, a value that is enshrined in the new Sustainable Development Goals. In this chapter, John Page provides recommendations on how African governments and their international partners can revitalize the region’s stagnating industrial development and spur structural transformation.

 Read chapter 2 »
Supporting Human Development: Triumphs and Challenges on the Continent

The region has witnessed remarkable improvements in poverty reduction in recent years, but persistent challenges in inequality, education, health, and violence, among others, still plague it. As the first year of the Sustainable Development Goals, 2016 provides the opportunity to be a jumping-off point for strong policies and efforts to accomplish these goals. In this chapter, Kathleen G. Beegle and Luc Christiaensen cover the assortment of opportunities 2016 provides for supporting human development efforts and argues for the central role that better data plays in addressing them.

 Read chapter 3 »
Capitalizing on Urbanization: The Importance of Planning, Infrastructure, and Finance for Africa's Growing Cities

With Habitat III in 2016, Jérôme Chenal takes the opportunity in this chapter to explore the consequences of Africa’s rapid urbanization. Africa is the second-fastest urbanizing region in the world, which historically has facilitated other regions’ transition from a reliance on agriculture to industry and jobs. However, without strong policies to deliver services, finance and build infrastructure, and support the urban poor, Africa’s rapidly growing megacities and intermediate cities cannot deliver on their potential.

 Read chapter 4 »
Maintaining Governance Gains: The National and Regional Agendas

2016 sees a number of governance milestones and obstacles, including elections across the continent (particularly in Uganda, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and for the African Union chairperson), as well as increasing regional integration and a seemingly stalled march towards good governance. In this chapter, Richard Joseph reflects on the region’s growth-governance puzzle and the complex institutional changes necessary to move from economic growth to economic transformation.

 Read chapter 5 »
Expanding African Trade: Creating a Comparative Advantage and Strengthening Regional Partnerships

In this chapter, Joshua P. Meltzer explores the impacts on Africa of the changing global trade environment. In particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement will transform global trade architecture, likely to the disadvantage of Africa. However, our viewpoint contributors believe that, if African countries can successfully leverage regional integration and better utilize the African Growth and Opportunity Act, they might be able to maintain global competitiveness.

 Read chapter 6 »

Article Source: Brookings Africa Growth Initiative

About Foresight Africa

The Foresight Africa project is a series of reports, commentaries and events that aim to help policymakers and Africa watchers stay ahead of the trends and developments impacting the continent. Since 2011, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative has used the occasion of the new year to assess Africa’s top priorities for the year.



Redefining Work

By Esko Kilpi


Pic Credit: Esko Kilpi

The most modern definition of work is “an exchange in which the participants benefit from the interaction”. Interestingly, cooperation is also described as “an exchange in which the participants benefit from the interaction”.

The way we view work life is influenced by the way we view the world. This view rests on the most fundamental assumptions we make about reality. In the present competitive view of the world, we often think that the most capable are those who are the most competitive, and accordingly that competition creates and secures capability and long-term viability in the world (of work).

But what if high performance is incorrectly attributed to competition and is more a result of diversity, self-organizing communication and non-competitive processes of cooperation?

Competitive processes lead to the handicapping of the system that these processes are part of. This is because competitive selection leads to exclusion: something or somebody, the losers, is left outside. Leaving something out of an ecosystem always means a reduction of diversity. The resulting less diverse system is efficient in the short term and competition seems to work, but always at the expense of long-term viability. Sustainability, agility and complex problem solving require more diversity, not less.

As losers are excluded from the game, they are not allowed to learn. The divide between winners and losers grows constantly. Losers multiply as winning behaviors are replicated in the smaller winners’ circles and losing behaviors are replicated in the bigger losers’ circles. This is why, in the end, the winners have to pay the price of winning in one way or another. The bigger the divide of inequality, the bigger the price that finally has to be paid. The winners end up having to take care of the losers. Before that two totally different cultures are formed in society, as is happening in many places today.

The games we play have been played under the assumption that the unit of survival is the player, meaning the individual or a company. However, in the time of the Anthropocene, the reality is that the unit of survival is the player in the game being played. Following Darwinian rhetoric, the unit of survival is the species in its environment. Who wins and who loses is of minor importance compared to the decay of the (game) environment as a result of the actions of the players.

In games that were paradoxically competitive and cooperative at the same time, losers would not be eliminated from the game, but would be invited to learn from the winners. What prevents losers learning from winners is our outdated zero-sum thinking and the winner-takes-all philosophy.

In competitive games the players need to have the identical aim of winning the same thing. Unless all the players want the same thing, there cannot be a genuine contest. Human players and their contributions are, at best, too diverse to rank. They are, and should be, too qualitatively different to compare quantitatively. Zero-sum games were the offspring of scarcity economics. In the post-industrial era of abundant creativity and contextuality, new human-centric approaches are needed.

Before Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth of Nations” and came out with the idea of the invisible hand, he had already written something perhaps even more interesting for our time. In “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” he argued that a stable society was based on sympathy. He underlined the importance of a moral duty — to have regard for your fellow human beings

Cooperative processes are about interdependent individuals and groups defining and solving problems in a shared context. Individuals competing on job markets may be one of the historic mistakes we have inherited from the industrial age. It made sense a long time ago but now we should think differently.

Interaction creates capability beyond individuals. Cooperative performance can be more than what could ever be predicted just by looking at the performance of the parties involved in a competitive game. Higher performance and robustness are emergent properties of cooperative interaction. They are not attributable to any of the parts of the system or to the functioning of the markets.

Networks provide a problem-solving capability that results directly from the richness of communication and the amount of connectivity. What happens in interaction between the parts creates a reality that cannot be seen in the parts or even all of the parts. What we have called the “whole” is an emergent pattern of interaction, not the sum of the parts or an entity on a different level from the parts.

The same principle explains why we have financial crises that no one planned and wars that no one wants. On the other hand, the great societal promise is that interaction in wide-area networks, with enough diversity, can solve problems beyond the awareness of the individuals involved.

What defines most problems today is that they are not isolated and independent but connected and systemic. To solve them, a person has to think not only about what he believes the right answer is, but also about what other people think the right answers might be. Following the rhetoric of game theory, what each person does affects and depends on what everyone else will do and vice versa.

Most managers and decision makers are still unaware of the implications of the complex, responsive properties of the world we live in. Enterprises are not organized to facilitate the management of interactions, only the actions of parts taken separately. Even more, compensation structures normally reward improving the actions of parts, not their interactions.

Work that humans do used to be a role; now it is a task, but it is going to be a relationship: work is interaction between interdependent people. The really big idea of 2016 is to reconfigure agency in a way that brings relationships into the center. The mission is to see action within relationships.

Amartyta Sen has written that wealth should not be measured by what we have but what we can do. As we engage in new relationships and connect with thinking that is different from ours, we are always creating new potentials for action. In competitive/cooperative games the winners would be all those whose participation, comments and contributions are incorporated into the development of the game.

Major changes in economic patterns have historically been associated with a technological change leading to a sudden discovery of underutilized resources. Examples are many raw materials shipped from far away countries, gold in California, large number of workers in China, idle computing power or, lately, privately owned cars.

The most underutilized resource still waiting for discovery may be our ability to cooperate much more deeply than the systems of work have so far envisioned.

And we have the tools!

This article was originally posted on the Medium


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