Over the last decade, African economies recorded impressive economic growth rates. Economic growth remains vigorous and growth is forecasted to be 5.5% in 2013-2014 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, almost a third of the countries in the region are growing at 6% or more. African countries are now routinely among the fastest growing countries in the world (World Bank, 2013). Despite the remarkable economic performance, Africa has the world’s highest proportion of poor people and is off track to meeting key MDGs (ECA, 2014). It is also projected that the continent’s population will increase by approximately 800 million people by 2040, putting even more pressure on natural resources. The challenge confronting the region therefore is not only to maintain, but to translate the rapid economic growth into sustained and inclusive development, based on economic diversification that creates jobs, contributes to reduced inequality and poverty, and enhances access to basic services. This underlies the renewed calls by countries for a structural transformation that fosters sustained and inclusive economic growth (Lin, 2012). Rodrik(2013) notes that while East Asian countries grew rapidly and turned their farmers into manufacturing workers, diversified their economies, and exported a range of increasingly sophisticated goods, little of that is taking place in Africa today.
Africa’s powerful economic performance has been accompanied by many development challenges that threaten to slow down the continent’s path and pace towards structural transformation and sustainable development. Among those, the twin challenges of tackling widespread inequality particularity gender inequality and the un-sustainability inherent in the over exploitation/depletion of the continent’s
natural and mineral resources reveal is a critical imperative. As the continent strives to achieve the structural transformation of its economy then order to achieve its agenda 2063, a greater understanding of the strong linkages between gender equality and sustainable development is a condition sine qua non for its socio-economic transformation. It will also inform effective implementation of the African Common Position and priorities on the Post2015 as well as the domestication of the sustainable development goals that will be endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in its September 2015 session.
This brief contributes to the 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) by shedding light on the powerful nexus between gender equality and sustainable development.
Globally, climate change will bring “harder rains in a hotter climate” (Berg, et al., 2013). For African farmers, it will bring more erratic rainfall, more frequent and severe droughts in dry lands and savanna areas, and shifts in weather patterns that will alter the timing and length of cropping seasons (Niang, et al., 2014). Building resilience, enhancing climate change preparedness, and mainstreaming climate sensitivity need to become integral components of all agricultural and sustainable development planning in Africa (Hassan, 2010). Science must play a greater role in guarding against expected food shortages in Africa; many calls to that effect have been made in international discussions, including those hosted by United Nations bodies (Pearson, 2004; Poliakoff, 2011). Put simply, African scientists need to act quickly to re-do much of the existing, as well as new science about crops and livestock, the environment, and livelihoods for changed climate scenarios. Science based solutions are only considered credible by intended users if these are properly peer reviewed for the scientific merit.
So far, most of the peer reviewed climate change science about and for Africa has been undertaken by research programs funded and led by affluent countries; the resulting papers have generally been published in acclaimed journals located in developed countries. Thousands of journals address climate-related issues relevant to Africa, developed countries. Thousands of journals address climate-related issues relevant to Africa, but far too few such publications are actually located in the countries being discussed. Even African scientists tend to publish their peer reviewed science in the journals located in or managed by developed countries. Of the 450 online African journals, more than two-thirds originate from two countries: Nigeria and South Africa (Figure 1). Only nine other countries in the continent publish more than five open-access journals. This typifies the ecosystem of climaterelated peer reviewed scientific expertise within Africa.
The gross domestic product (GDP) is the world’s most powerful statistical measure. Its underlying economic principles have contributed to splitting the planet into two worlds: the ‘developed’ and the ‘developing’ countries and/or the North and the South. Paradoxically, the GDP mantra was imposed on poorer
nations in spite of its creators’ conclusion that its approach should not be applied to countries largely dependent on informal economic structures, as these are not considered by income accounts, which are threatened by policies designed to increase GDP (Fioramonti 2013). The economist Simon Kuznets, one
of the architects of the GDP system, is also known for having demonstrated how income inequality rises in times of fast GDP growth. His famous ‘curve’ shows
how relative poverty is exacerbated, especially in under-industrialized countries, leading to a concentration of resources and income in the hands of
a few. This brief makes the argument that GDP is a highly inappropriate measure to gauge progress, especially in the so-called developing world. It will
therefore focus on Africa to show how moving beyond GDP may open up creative opportunities to fight poverty and achieve sustainable wellbeing.