Ensuring Africa’s Continued Rise
To commemorate its founding 25 years ago, PS is republishing a selection of commentaries written since 1994. In the following commentary, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wrote that, while Africa is well placed to build diversified, sustainable economies, policymakers cannot simply assume that the continent’s rise will continue.
LAGOS – Africa’s rise is in danger of faltering. After years during which the continent’s economy grew at an average annual rate of 5%, global uncertainty, depressed commodity prices, and jittery external conditions are threatening to undermine decades of much-needed progress. Ensuring the wealth and wellbeing of the continent’s residents will not be easy; but there is much that policymakers can do to put Africa back on an upward trajectory.
First and foremost, policymakers must secure the financing needed to pursue sustainable development in an uncertain global environment. The World Bank estimates that meeting Africa’s infrastructure needs alone will require at least $93 billion a year to fund its infrastructure needs alone. Climate-friendly, sustainable infrastructure will cost even more. And yet, as long as global growth remains weak, Africans cannot count on developed countries to honor fully their commitments to help attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Africa must rapidly develop its own resources, beginning by nearly doubling tax revenues. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, tax revenues account for less than one-fifth of GDP, compared to more than one-third in OECD countries. This means there is plenty of room for improvement. From 1990 to 2004, for example, Ghana reformed its tax system and raised revenues from 11% to 22% of GDP. Admittedly, such progress is difficult; in Nigeria, we saw an opportunity in raising non-oil tax revenues, but struggled to seize it.
Project Syndicate celebrates its 25th anniversary with PS 25, a collection of our hardest-hitting commentaries so far.
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