© Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

Innovative business models are creating new dynamics between formal companies and informal micro-entrepreneurs.

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Korean trade with Africa has more than quadrupled since the late 1990s.

2015 has been a challenging year for Africa. Average growth of African economies weakened in 2015 to 3.6%, down from an average annual 5% enjoyed since 2000.

In October, world leaders will gather in Quito for the Habitat III summit to launch the New Urban Agenda. This is on top of the start this year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

© Joe Penney / Reuters

We don’t know the name, or the place and exact date of birth, of the baby who changed world history. My guess is that she was born somewhere in Africa in 2007. Not that she cared as she lay there all wrinkled and raging at the disagreeable turn her life had just taken, but it was thanks to her that for the first time ever, the world had more urban dwellers than country folk.

The world’s oceans, seas and rivers are a major source of wealth, creating trillions of dollars’ worth in goods and services as well as employing billions of people. […] Yet Africa’s blue potential remains untapped.

Africa is the least urbanised continent in the world but an urban transition is very much underway. This is particularly visible in West Africa where the number of urban agglomerations increased from 152 in 1950 to almost 2,000 in 2010. Between 2000 and 2010 alone, the urban population grew by over 40 million people, making towns and cities home to 41% of the region’s total population.

African nations are exploring how best to harness the potential of cities as agents of change to achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The current African Economic Outlook (AEO), jointly produced by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme, warns that policy makers and donors too often are blind to the territorial realities of the economies they are trying to help develop. Economies are seen as sectors rather than places. And thus sectoral lenses tend to limit policy action to a few specific tools, regardless of the complexity of problems that demand a place-based, multi-sectoral and participatory approach.

Joan Clos ©UN-Habitat

If urbanisation is one of the most important global trends of the 21st century, with some 70% of the world’s population forecasted to live in cities by 2050, then urbanisation in Africa–and the ways in which that growth occurs–marks one of the most significant opportunities for achieving global sustainable development.

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Africa’s urban population growth rate was the world’s fastest at 4% between 1960 and 2010, and it is clear that urbanisation across its 54 countries will continue to pose policy challenge in the years ahead. But unlike in many other regions of the world, people quitting the countryside to settle in cities will not be the main driver of that growth.

©Peter Treanor/Alamy Stock Photo

Air pollution in African cities is a major health and environmental challenge that must become a focus of urban policies. 

Sea change for the Moroccan port of Tangier ©Alamy

Tangier in 2000 was a sleepy coastal city in the north of Morocco. Fifteen years later, Tangier’s population has exploded three-fold into a vibrant metropolitan area of 1.5 million inhabitants. The city’s free-zones have attracted new industries, such as automobile producers. A new business district called Tangier City Center and new satellite cities arise around Tangier’s old town, providing local inhabitants with modern infrastructure and amenities that have been sorely lacking. A new high-speed train is being built to connect people with the state-of-the-art Ibn Batouta International Airport.

What policy actions are you taking to harness the benefits and address the challenges of the digital economy?

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The Paris Agreement on climate change signals the end of business as usual for energy industries. For the first time in history more than 150 developed and developing countries have promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But how binding are these agreements? And do they provide impetus for local action in Africa?

"Regional authorities in Africa are now getting involved in the fight against climate change by making concrete commitments."

Interview with Jeannot Ahoussou-Kouadio, President of the Assembly of Regions and Districts of Côte d’Ivoire (ARDCI)

©REUTERS/Joe Penney

There are many countries emerging from conflict. Why care about Mali?

“Like eating soup with a knife”: Peter O Toole (right) portrays TE Lawrence, with Omar Sharif, in the 1962 film, “Lawrence of Arabia” ©Kobal/The Picture Desk/AFP

Insurgency is a cause of underdevelopment in large areas of West Africa, holding back the task of achieving social and economic progress. 

African Economic Outlook 2015/OECD

The financial landscape has changed considerably in Africa since 2000. Private external flows in the form of investment and remittances now drive growth in external finance, according to the African Economic Outlook 2015. Foreign investments are expected to reach US$73.5 billion in 2015, underpinned by increasing greenfield investment from China, India and South Africa.


Since democracy was restored in 1999, Nigeria has engaged in ambitious reforms towards greater market liberalisation and economic openness. By far the most populous country of the continent–with more than 170 million people Nigeria is home to 18% of Africa’s population–it now claims to be the largest
economy in Africa, with an estimated nominal GDP of US$510 billion. Its GDP growth has never been below 5% since 2003, and since 2009, it has become the preferred destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, ahead of South Africa.

What will fuel Africa’s economic growth and development? Will urban centres be the spark? Will agricultural areas drive productivity? The answer is both.

This post is from Juana de Catheu, founder of Development Results and Donata Garrasi, Peace-building Adviser in the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate. 

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

South Africa has made rapid progress in educational attainment compared with other emerging countries, with near full enrolment in primary and secondary schooling. Pre-primary schooling has expanded fast too, and so to a lesser extent has third-level education.

Cell number

South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela, holds up a mobile phone in London, 21 October 2003. Using his old convict number 46664 from Robben Island, Mr Mandela helped launch a global phone and internet campaign to raise awareness about AIDs. Originally published in OECD Observer No 240/241, December 2003

Read "President Nelson Mandela: Some personal reflections", by Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development, and Director, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford

See also www.oecd.org/southafrica/

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

©George Esiri/Reuters

Nigerian oil is renowned for being easy to refine, though this also fuels a trafficking problem. Oil theft in Nigeria hit a record high in the first quarter of 2013. Nigerian authorities reported a loss of US$1.2 billion in a single month, equivalent to a 17% drop in sales. 

©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 African economy has been enjoying an upsurge in recent years. How confident are you about the future?

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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.

Economic data


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  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

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