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The Hewlett Foundation Blog




A Development Agenda for Africa, by Africans 

March 5, 2014 — By Sarah Lucas

On Monday, the 2014 African Transformation Report “Growth with Depth” hit the streets of Johannesburg and the world. Just another economic report for the shelves, you ask? Not this time. Here’s the “who, what, and why” that should make you stand up and take notice.

The Who: If we told you this is an ambitious, continent-wide, agenda-setting, deeply-researched, data-heavy, policy-relevant economic report, who would you guess produced it? The World Bank? The African Development Bank? Guess again. The report is the brainchild of the Ghanaian African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), working in collaboration with home-grown think tanks across the continent. ACET bills itself as a “think-and-do tank, bringing an authentic African perspective,” with staff hailing from eight African countries. African scholars setting a robust agenda for African development. For global development policy makers and advocates looking for the next frontier of country ownership, this is it – at a continental level!

The What: The 2014 African Transformation Report defines a framework for economic transformation in Africa – growth with DEPTH. It is an actionable policy agenda to make the most of Africa’s growing workforce, abundant land, and natural resources. According to the report, growth with DEPTH means:

  • Diversifying production;
  • Making Exports competitive;
  • Increasing Productivity of farms, firms, and government functions; and
  • Upgrading Technology used throughout the economy.
  • All to improve Human well-being.

The report also presents the African Transformation Index: a ranking designed to create some healthy competition among countries, and frankly, to test our assumptions about which countries have the right mix of policies to promote growth with DEPTH. The big surprises are Ghana and Nigeria in the bottom third of the Index and Botswana nowhere near the top. Read the report to find out why!

The Why: “Transformation” is the talk of the town in capitals around the globe. The UN High Level Panel on post-2015 development goals focuses on it; the African Union Vision 2063 calls for it; and it’s at the heart of the African Development Bank’s new strategy. ACET puts forth a data-driven, actionable agenda for what “transformation” can and should look like. The data-driven approach also helps shine a light on what we do and don’t know. Some countries are left out of the Index altogether. The report actually opens with an eloquent forward by Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Yet her country is not included in the Index. Why? Insufficient data. We simply don’t know enough about Liberia’s economy to know whether it is transforming and how.

What’s Next:  ACET has done a terrific job of laying out the puzzle pieces of economic transformation in Africa—including what pieces are still missing. Their next step is to use the report as a call to action for African governments, international donors, the private sector, and civil society. When they make that call, it’s time for everyone who cares about the future of the continent to stand up, take notice, and take action.