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Governance survey argues that slow trade reform and 'democratic backsliding' are hampering progress

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation finds that gains in economic opportunity and human development are held back by bad politics

A decade of gains in education and health provision, as well as economic growth are at risk due to deteriorating conditions for security and rule of law as well as restrictions on participation, rights and conclusion, according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Index of African Governance survey released on 25 January.

The survey warns that governance in Africa has flatlined since 2019, pointing to 'an increasingly perilous security situation and widespread democratic backsliding, as the continent struggles to manage the combined impacts of Covid-19, climate change, conflict and coups, as well as food and energy insecurity'.

Citing the accumulating effects of climate change, the pandemic and the indirect damage of the Russia-Ukraine war, the survey argues: 'Governments must address all at once … the  ongoing lack of prospects for our growing youth, worsening food insecurity, lack of access to energy for almost half the continent's population, heavier debt burden, growing domestic unrest.'

The most positive elements of its data and analysis are the steady growth of economic opportunities, along with health and educational provision that it has monitored in the past decade.

But here too it identifies a pan-African constraint on economic growth – the failure to open up the continent through improved transport network infrastructure and cut restrictions on free movement of people, labour and capital.

The slow pace of trade reform and integration, after the launching of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021, is hurting intra-African trade, which stands at less than 13%, far below the levels in Asia and Europe.

Despite government efforts to promote regional integration and a relaxation of visa regulations for travel among African countries, intra-regional trade has steadily declined since 2012.

The trade deal makes 90% of goods eligible for tariff-free trade with projections that the pact could boost intra-Africa trade by 33%.

'Intra-continental trade remains the lowest of any world region. The dependence on external markets leaves the continent highly exposed to crises and shocks in other parts of the world, as showcased by the impact of Covid-19 and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war,' states the Mo Ibrahim report.

AfCFTA's official launch was delayed by the pandemic and its implementation was complicated by the ensuing disruption to supply chains caused and then by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union and the United States are providing technical support for the AfCFTA secretariat to develop the regulatory framework for the trade bloc, but financial experts reckon that progress on trade integration will be slow as the new protocols are agreed and implements over the next decade (AC Vol 64 No 2, Grand ambitions, little money).

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