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.

On 25 September 2015, the 193 countries of the United Nation’s General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This comprehensive set of goals aims to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all” as part of a new development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by 2030, and by including education, health, poverty, climate change and the gender divide on the list of 17 goals, the SDGs place in stark light some of the seemingly intractable challenges facing the world.

©Sodexo

Not so long ago, “globalisation” was a favourite paradigm in international business. It was a trend that began in the late 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s, when corporate takeovers were the order of the day and multinational companies fixated on maximising short-term profits and boosting share prices. One approach was “global sourcing”, also called outsourcing or offshoring. The strategy typically involved moving the company’s operations to wherever labour was cheapest. First the production work went abroad, and then companies were offloading all but their most essential core activities.

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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?

Creeping protectionism is alive and well. Last year’s monitoring report on trade for the G20 reminded us that of the nearly 1,500 trade-restrictive measures imposed by G20 countries since 2008, fewer than 400 have been removed. The stock of these barriers continues to grow, despite a pledge by the G20 to reduce protectionism. Not surprisingly, given this context, a recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) report concludes that the risks to the international trading system and to trade flows more generally “are tilted to the downside.”

In Hungary, young people want to have bigger families, but concerns over issues like housing and striking a work-life balance appear to be obstacles. In response, the government has introduced a range of family-friendly policies–a vital step in helping families fulfil their dreams and in meeting the challenge of a rapidly ageing population.

Productivity growth has slowed since the crisis and inequality of income and opportunity has been getting worse. Could they be impacting each other?

©Photosensitive/Reuters

The UN Sustainable Development Goals could be a real game changer for gender issues, with wins in fraught areas such as reproductive rights. But there will be challenges, and opposing voices, to contend with in the years ahead.

©AFP/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/NURPHOTO

The UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in November-December is the final crucial step in a year which has set forth several global milestones towards shaping a better common future. Tackling climate change is a determining factor in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in New York in September 2015 in particular; an agreement in Paris would not only bolster all the efforts that led to the historic SDGs, but lift the hopes of everyone on the planet, especially the most vulnerable. 

©REUTERS/Joe Penney

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

Malala Yousafzai at the UN summit ©Jemal Countess/Getty Images North America/AFP

The adoption of the post-2015 Agenda for Development at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York 25-27 September will be an important driver of the OECD’s work for the next decade and beyond. 

Geothermal plant in Indonesia, which holds considerable geothermal energy potential thanks to its hundreds of active and extinct volcanoes ©Reuters/Beawiharta Beawiharta

Climate change is the pre-eminent challenge of our time. We need financing to mitigate and adapt to its impacts.  

World leaders have just endorsed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprising some 169 targets. To have a chance of reaching them, we must also meet another goal: improving our data. 

Charlotte Moreau/OECD Observer

“To eradicate poverty we need to direct more development assistance and concessional loans to the poorest nations and mobilise much more private finances for development.” Official development assistance (ODA) reached an all-time high of $135.2 billion in 2014. Even so, not all developing countries rely on ODA to the same extent, and to some of them it may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to other international financial flows. However, for the least developed countries, such assistance represents over 70% of available external finance and more than one-third of their total public revenue and expenditure. This highlights the importance of the target set by the United Nations in 1970: for donors to allocate 0.7% of their gross national income as ODA.

“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. 

As co-chairs of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, my Mexican and Malawian colleagues and I have a huge task–and a huge opportunity–ahead. A new, truly universal development agenda is taking shape and it holds out to all people on this planet the promise of a more equal and sustainable world, with less conflict and less poverty.

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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.

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

©Issei Kato/REUTERS

The world is no longer divided between rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly educated ones.

Over the last three years, the United Nations has been working to establish a global sustainable development agenda to succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expire in 2015. This important agenda, comprising 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, is due to be adopted at the UN summit in September in New York.

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

Charlotte Moreau/OECD Observer

As negotiations near conclusion on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries are honing in on what it will take to implement them. There are currently 17 goals on the table, and by the time the UN summit to launch the goals takes place in September, the much-emphasised “transformative” nature of the goals could gain traction, as could the “revitalised global partnership” called for under Goal 17.

©Charlotte Moreau

"Most of our problems are based on finances. Money is always an issue. I have to still provide for both my parents who are not working and make sure they are fed; I must pay their insurance policies because they no longer have the ability to pay them. I don’t earn enough money to afford all of that."

©Guiziou Franck/HEMIS.FR

Joacquim is a subsistence farmer from Etatara in Mozambique. At 46 years old, he is his family’s sole breadwinner, responsible for supporting his wife and three orphaned grandchildren. He lives in a traditional house, which he is unable to use as collateral, and grows maize, sorghum, cassava and beans. They consume a lot of the produce themselves, and what is not consumed is sold. Joacquim earns US$300-500 per month depending on the season and his produce.

A Better Than Cash Alliance supporter: Bill Gates ©Bernd Von Jutrczenka / DPA Picture-Alliance/AFP

Access to financing can contribute to inclusive social and economic development. How might digital transactions help? Here’s how.

©Thomas Muncke/DPA/DPA Picture Alliance/AFP

U Chit Po is 49 years old and runs a grocery store in Myanmar. He is responsible for his wife and two children. He recently had a major health scare and consequently would like to retire soon. U Chit Po has no medical coverage, as there is no licence for the health insurance market in Myanmar. His income consists of profit from his small business and interest on loans to others, which he lends at 20% interest per day. He has never saved in a formal banking institution, but his knowledge about the value and complexities of saving are highly sophisticated. He feels that banks have so much red tape, especially for provisions which he might need to access at short notice, and the interest offered by banks on savings is so little that it is not worth the hassle.

Aly Song/Reuters

Investment has been hit hard by the crisis, yet is vital for a sustainable recovery and future well-being. In 2008-14 private investment ran at some 25% below pre-crisis forecasts. From infrastructure and green energy to improving education and health care, all countries depend on investment in physical and human capital.

International trade is a key driver of development. But high trade costs prevent a large number of developing countries from fully exploiting the opportunities that the global market offers: increased development, stronger growth and more jobs.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q3 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.9% Sept 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% Sept 2018
Last update: 22 Nov 2018

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  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
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  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • 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 .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

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