Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. Since the beginning of the century, the urban population in the region grew by more than 200 million people. Today, 430 million people, or 38% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, live in a city. This relentless urbanisation process brings huge social, economic and environmental transformations.

The headline news at the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa last month (January 2018) was the announcement of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), with 23 countries pledging to remove non-physical barriers to air routes, and ultimately create a single aviation area across the continent. Most of Africa’s major airlines belong to countries that are signatories, such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa. Together, they represent over 70% of intra-African air traffic.

Regional economic integration isn’t working and changing that should be a priority. 

Global trade, the merchandise exports component of which was about US$15.5tn in 2016, according to World Trade Organisation (WTO) data, is expected to shrink by at least half over the next half century due to 3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM). In tandem would be global value chains (GVCs), which were set to give African countries perhaps their last fighting chance at industrialisation. At $346bn in 2016, African merchandise exports were just 2% of the world total. And 32% of these were oil exports.

The economic growth rate in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to recover to 2.6% in 2017, following a net deceleration in 2016. According to the World Bank, the upturn in economic activity is expected to continue in 2018 and 2019, reflecting improvements in commodity prices, a pickup in global growth, and more supportive domestic conditions.

As trade and investment soars between the Gulf and Africa, member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have been at the forefront of discovering and unlocking new opportunities.

Africa’s decision to elect Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad to the post of AU Chairperson, took the headline news at this January’s AU Heads of State summit in Addis Ababa. While the Chairperson is a symbol of African unity and can drive the next chapter of Africa’s story, the substantive issues underlying regional policymaking are more significant.




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