All eyes are focused on New York right now, but in just a few days Pittsburgh will grab the global stage when heads of state from the world’s biggest economies show up for the G20 Summit. As most of you know, in addition to a variety of requests for follow-up from the G20 London Summit and the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, ONE is also calling for the G20 to agree to host an upcoming summit in Africa.
The obvious answer is that the African continent is made up of 53 states and nearly 1 billion people, so of course any discussion of the global economic recovery should be hosted in Africa at some point. Less obvious to many is the fact that when it comes to the economic crisis and other pressing global problems (like climate change and food security), Africa is part of the solution.
Take the economy. Until the financial crisis, 18 non-oil exporting African economies were growing individually at annual rate of 5.5% or more, the most sustained economic growth in decades. Increasing investment, trade and economic diversification were all part of this trend. This growth not only presented African countries with new opportunities to create jobs, increase exports and boost revenues, it also offered the world a new destination for investment and business. The same is true with the global economic recovery. Helping Africa get back on its feet after the financial crisis will reap benefits for the rest of the world. Research commissioned by ONE earlier this year showed that a $50 billion stimulus for long-term growth in sub-Saharan Africa would generate $250 billion of increased output and generate a 40% return for the investors in ten years time.
Climate and agriculture are other areas where Africa has a lot to offer. Preserving the continent’s vast natural resources, for example, could help offset global emissions. The forests of the Congo basin span 700,000 square miles, making it one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks. Africa’s potential for solar, geothermal and hydro-power provides new opportunities for private sector investments. And with greater investment in agriculture, Africa could one day serve as a global breadbasket and help to prevent the food shortages the world witnessed in 2008. Nearly two-thirds of Africa’s people are employed in agriculture, and some estimate that the continent is home to 800 million hectares of unused, cultivable land.
Much needs to be done to truly tap into Africa’s potential in a way that brings benefits to the rest of the global community- barriers to trade need to be removed, carbon markets need to be incentivized to invest in Africa and infrastructure needs to be strengthened so that the continent can attract more investment. But one easy way that the G20 can get the ball rolling is by announcing that it will host an upcoming summit on the continent. Doing so will signal that the G20 is sincere about bringing Africa to the table as these important global decisions are made and will force the rest of the world to take a closer look at what Africa has to offer.
Stay tuned here for more details on ONE’s recommendations around agriculture and climate change for the G20 in Pittsburgh.