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3 Refocusing International Development Cooperation with Africa



A larger and more productive private sector is a necessity if Africa is to experience sustainable development. Private sector-led growth must create more and better employment for Africa’s growing youth population. Employment will reduce poverty, improve the standards of living for Africans and create the basis for sustainable development and for reach ing the Millennium Development Goals

Lars Løkke Rasmussen,
Chairman of the Africa Commission


To address the significant challenges and the new opportunities facing the African continent, the Africa Commission recommends a refocused agenda for international development cooperation with Africa. Creating jobs for Africa’s increasing youth population requires a greater emphasis on private sector-led growth.

For this refocused agenda to be successful, African governments must focus less on attracting donor funds and more on attracting private capital for investment. The Africa Commission recognizes that this may not be possible in the short-term context of the global economic and financial crisis but it must be the long-term goal. This will need to be paired with ownership over necessary reforms and good governance. Development partners must support the agenda and deliver on their aid commitments. Their assistance must support long-term development, which over time will reduce aid dependency. Development partners must also reduce the burden on governments and civil society in line with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action. Ultimately, however, it will be up to Africans to raise investor confidence in Africa’s economic prospects. Development partners can only play a catalytic role in this process.

The refocused agenda should put special emphasis on youth employment, private sector-led growth and competitiveness inter alia by implementation of the following recommendations:

  • R1: Increased emphasis on the role of the private sector, including agriculture, in delivering growth and employment. Achieving the MDGs and sustaining progress in health, food security and education requires strong growth and employment opportunities for African youth. This must be recognised at the 2010 UN MDG review conference.

  • R2: Shift focus from donor-led growth to private sector-led growth. Increased competitiveness of the private sector combined with international trade liberalisation is the best way to reduce poverty, create jobs for young Africans and ensure sustainable development.

  • R3: Increase support from development partners to build the private sector,including through value chain approaches and other strategies that can help transform and grow African economies and create jobs for African youth.

  • R4: Ensure progress on governance, which is a prerequisite for economic growth and development. Efforts should aim to develop effective public sectors able to combat corruption, protect property rights and ensure the rule of law, promote gender equality and strengthen the role of civil society and the private sector in holding governments accountable.

  • R5: Develop and implement national development strategies through broad consultative processes involving the private sector, business associations, labour market associations and civil society. The aim should be to improve the business environment by expanding and maintaining major infrastructure, financial markets and skills development and other measures that enhance competitiveness. International development assistance must build upon and support such strategies.

  • R6: Establish strong partnerships between the public and the private sector to eliminate barriers to growth and to strengthen the competitiveness of the private sector. African governments should support private sector initiatives to develop value chains and promote labour-intensive manufacturing, especially in areas such as agriculture and agro-processing. Support from the public sector should aim to help develop competitive markets, which attract private investments and create jobs.

  • R7: Ensure more is done to open markets, including for south-south trade. Developed countries must give African goods full and free access to their markets, including easing rules-of-origin requirements and phasing-out trade-distorting subsidies. Relative to other developing countries, there is a case for allowing African countries privileged access to markets in developed countries, at least for a limi ted period of time.

  • R8: Unleash the potential of women as drivers of economic growth and development. Gender equality and improvement of women’s economic opportunities should be promoted by mainstreaming and benchmarking gender equality in all policies, strategies and actions for private sector development and through special efforts by government, the private sector, labour market organisations, civil society and development partners.

  • R9: Realise the potential of African youth by giving them influence over policies and strategies. Young people should be given a much-needed voice and the opportunity to participate in decision-making, including through improved career opportunities.

  • R10: Strengthen efforts to include climate change considerations in all development strategies. The international community should support African governments in adapting to the risks and impacts of climate change and benefiting from mitigation measures, including through reaching an ambitious agreement during the UN Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen in December 2009.


This page forms part of the publication 'Realising the Potential of Africa’s Youth' as chapter 7 of 25
Version 1.0. 09-06-2009
Publication may be found at the address


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