Africa has great diversity among its 48 countries, with a mix of low-income, lower-middle-income, and upper-middle income countries, and several fragile states. Each country faces distinct challenges to transition to the next level of development.
The World Bank Group (WBG) continues to prioritize Africa’s 18 Fragile and Conflict-affected States (FCS), with a focus on state rebuilding and supporting the transition out of fragility. The WBG’s approach to these countries is differentiated to respond to the different circumstances and needs of each country. Our program addresses intra-country economic disparities among regions and groups, which also contribute to fragility and conflict.
The Bank’s strategy in Africa to help end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity focuses on a wide range of priority areas ranging from designing and implementing economic recovery plans in Ebola-affected countries, to providing fiscal support in the effective delivery of basic services, extending safety nets, ensuring food security, and providing support for small farmers.
Regional integration in Africa remains a critical piece of the Bank’s strategy to improve connectivity, leverage economies of scale, and enhance productivity.
Knowledge is essential to our effort to improve development outcomes and make aid more effective. Country Economic Updates, produced in consultation with clients and other stakeholders, help promote substantive discussions around key policy issues. Analytical work on structural transformation, on macroeconomic vulnerabilities, on fragility and poverty, but also on more specific areas such as the management of drylands, addressing the challenges of the Sahel, improving development outcomes in the Horn of Africa, and tapping the opportunities in land reform, urbanization, and demography are also underway.
Better infrastructure is key to promote broader growth, including in manufacturing and services. More abundant, reliable power, lower transport costs, and better logistics are fundamental for competitiveness. Too little electricity remains the most serious infrastructure obstacle. Tapping Africa’s tremendous potential to generate its own power from hydro, geothermal, natural gas, and solar resources is a priority for our client countries and the WBG.
Africa now has the world’s fastest urbanization rate. Half of Africa’s population will live in towns and cities by 2040, being 450 million more people than today. Integrated urban planning, addressing water, sanitation, transport, housing, power and governance, will be vital to making urbanization a true driver of productivity and income growth.
While cities are growing, agriculture still employs 60 percent of the workforce, the vast majority of whom live in rural areas where major improvements are needed to ensure that rural exodus in search of the limited jobs in the cities does not merely shift the bulk of Africa’s poorest from rural Africa into impoverished urban Africa. There is a need to accelerate progress in boosting agriculture productivity and output. Supporting smallholders among others through investment in improved technologies, rural financial services, and better access to markets is vital. Equally important is the push to boost agribusiness investments and improve land and water management by adopting modern irrigation practices, preventing conflicts over water resources and implementing climate-smart agriculture solutions.
Africa is the world’s youngest continent, and each year for the next decade, 11 million youth will enter the job market. Young Africans must be equipped with the right skills and training. There is still a large mismatch between what African students are learning and the skills employers are actually seeking. To help bridge this gap, the World Bank Group has launched initiatives to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering and Mathematics) across the region. The initiatives include the innovative “Africa Centers of Excellence Project,” which has launched in West Africa and will be expanded across the continent.
The Ebola crisis sheds light on the need for better, well-financed and more resilient health systems across the continent, to contain risks of communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Expanding quality basic health services remains a key priority.
Comprehensive and cost-effective social protection systems are essential to help the poor and vulnerable weather crises and rise out of extreme poverty. It will remain crucial for countries in need of making macroeconomic adjustments in response to shocks to pre-identify the vulnerable and cushion the adverse impact of such adjustments.
Africa’s poor are likely to be hit hardest by climate change, particularly changes in temperature and rainfall patterns. The Sahel and other drylands have seen increased rainfall volatility, and water resources are continuously depleted. Natural disasters, such as droughts in East Africa, and floods and cyclones in Southern Africa, are increasing in frequency and intensity. Investing in climate-change adaptation techniques and disaster risk management will remain top priority.
Last Updated: Apr 01, 2015