Can Africa sustain its recent strong economic performances and benefit more from its abundant resources?

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Latin America’s future as a region of innovation will be far from secure if investment in research and development (R&D) continues at current low levels.

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Case studies of specific products, particularly in the electronics industry, show that value creation along a global value chain tends to be unevenly distributed among activities. The highest value creation is found in upstream activities, such as the development of a new concept, research and development (R&D) and the manufacturing of key components. But it is also found in downstream activities, such as marketing, branding and customer service.

“A career in politics is no preparation for government”, said one of the characters in the 1970s British TV comedy series, Yes Minister. They had a point. After all, to newly elected politicians, government seems to be set up as a testing and complex route for taking (or stopping) decisions and implementing policy.

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Africa has made tremendous progress over the last 13 years, going from “hopeless” to “aspiring”, in the words of The Economist. Certainly, Africa’s pace of growth has been impressive, averaging 5.1% of GDP per year–much faster than most OECD countries. Some have dismissed this simply as reflecting the recent boom in natural resource prices. They point to the fact that the prices of most commodities– agricultural, mineral and energy–doubled or even tripled over the same period, and warn that Africa’s growth will come to an end once resource prices taper off, as is happening now.

©OECD Development Centre

Judging from media headlines, we are in a phase of Afro-optimism. Are we witnessing Africa’s economic take-off? The African Economic Outlook project, the result of a partnership of more than 10 years between the Development Centre, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Economic Commission for Africa, presents a contrasting assessment of the continent’s “emergence”.

"The BRVM is the unique stock exchange for eight countries in West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo."

An interview with Nina Alida Abouna, Managing Director of the Investment and Export Promotion Agency (APIEX)

"To strengthen fi nancial stability, a macro-prudential framework was established to ensure that counter-cyclical effects of fi scal policies by the government and further downward trend in capital markets do not affect macroeconomic stability."

 

An interview with Thierno Bocar Tall, CEO of African Biofuels and Renewable Energy Company (ABREC)

Photographer: Bernard Fougères

If any word sums up today’s world, it’s definitely “instantaneous.” News spreads at the speed of light. Content is interpreted in mere seconds. Forecasts proliferate at a frenzied pace. But all this has a drawback: volatility increases. In such a context, it’s vital to take a step back. And it soon becomes clear, maintains the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, that a long-term view is more relevant than ever.

 

The University of Geneva addresses a challenge for the individuals and for the world.

Michael Izza, Chief Executive, ICAEW

“International tax reform demands strong national and G20 leadership, but the prize of a fair and efficient tax system is well worth the effort.” 

A view from Michael Izza, Chief Executive, ICAEW. ICAEW is a global accountancy body representing 140,000 Chartered Accountants across the world.

Commodities have been a major driver of Africa’s growth story in recent years. But you may be surprised to hear that natural resources could have contributed far more than they actually did to Africa’s 5% average GDP growth over the last decade. Although Africa’s primary sector has expanded, its global share of natural capital dropped from 11.5% in 1995 to 8.5% in 2005.

Though China has recently been a dominant force in trade and investment on the African continent, India and Korea are fast becoming serious challengers. How can African countries make more of these evolving trends? And what role can the traditional partners in the OECD area play?

The 2008 economic crisis shook up the landscape of financial flows to Africa and brought to the fore two major trends: an upsurge in foreign direct investment (FDI) and a parallel rise in remittances from abroad. Indeed, remittances outpaced both aid and FDI inflows with a compound growth rate over the past decade of 7.7%.

The vision of a world without extreme poverty is not a utopia, but a reachable goal. Yet realising the vision demands that we meet urgent challenges, and that includes overhauling our development goals.

If you didn't make the OECD Week this week, watch this 4 minute summary posted below:

©Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

The Cyprus crisis is the result of policy mistakes and a failure of collective responsibility, as well as an illustration of what bad policy can do and could do if it’s not corrected. It’s now too late to take the easier steps that could have avoided the problems we’re facing today, but there are alternatives to the myopic, badly conceived plan proposed by the Troika (the committee led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that negotiates loans to the states worst affected by the sovereign debt crisis).

Governments’ budgets have taken a heavy blow in the global economic crisis, as they have had to foot the bill of corporate bailouts and massive rises in unemployment. Policymakers had little choice but to squeeze public services and jack up income and consumption taxes. So it is little wonder that politicians and their electorates were enraged when news broke revealing that some of the world’s largest and most profitable corporations, some of them icons of the new economy, paid little or no tax at all, including in countries where they pulled in massive profits.  

Small international businesses are flourishing on the back of new technology, and becoming more multinational than much larger international corporations.  

©Eric Piermont/AFP

Ireland held the presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2013, and good progress was made in key areas, such as the banking union and economic governance, but much remains to be done to restore confidence in the EU, particularly for its citizens.

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The Great Recession—the financial, economic and social crisis that started at the end of 2007—has proved to be one of the longest and deepest in half a century, and so it is no wonder that news of a recovery has been greeted with such enthusiasm. But will the recovery be strong enough to help put OECD economies back on a pre-crisis growth path?

How multinationals and related firms calculate their internal global transactions for tax purposes is always under scrutiny, and even more so since the start of the crisis. The widely accepted way is to compare the value of those transactions with similar real market transactions. This arm’s length approach has its critics and competition is brewing. Here are the pros and cons.

A welcome sense of cautious optimism is building around the preparations for the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg in September, setting the tone for policymakers to take a renewed interest in coordinating their national action agendas to address pressing global challenges.

©OECD

The Russian presidency of the G20– the “premier forum for international economic cooperation”–is fast approaching its climax with the leaders’ summit taking place in Saint Petersburg on 5 and 6 September. By presiding over a group that represents 80% of the world’s GDP and that is sometimes dubbed the “steering committee” of the world economy, Russia has used this influential position to make a significant contribution to strengthening the recovery of the world economy.

©G20 Russia 2013

The Russian Federation took over the G20 presidency on 1 December 2012, a time when all international organisations and countries had downgraded their growth forecasts for the year ahead. Against this background and the need for urgent and co-ordinated policy action to put the recovery back on track, we decided to refocus the G20 agenda on the issue of growth and jobs, and to work on very concrete actions and commitments for G20 leaders to discuss and possibly endorse at the Saint Petersburg summit in September 2013.

Though optimism about a recovery may be rising, the global crisis has left deep scars and placed economies of all levels and sizes under severe strain. Achieving long-term, inclusive, growth is a key goal of OECD countries and a central theme of the Russian presidency of the G20. Reforms are essential for achieving that goal, though other measures, in fiscal policy for instance, could help too.

©Christian Charisius/Reuters

The world economy has become more complex, with global value chains and myriad interconnections among producers across continents. This has an impact on trade and investment policy, as well as on development, and exposes the shortcomings of the usual way of measuring trade.

©TUAC

The last few months have been marked by slightly better news on the economy, with signs of a recovery in the EU area in particular. But these are early days and challenges remain. John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), is not holding his breath. He explains why to the OECD Observer.

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