Why the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is a boost for the Africa Union’s Youth Agenda

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was launched on July 7th, 2019 in Niamey, Niger, by African Heads of State and Government at an extraordinary summit of the African Union (AU). The AfCTFA is a free trade area mooted by African governments. The AfCFTA is the world’s largest free-trade area in terms of number of countries participating ,since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The mere fact that the AfCTFA was negotiated over a record 24 months, and ratified by ratified record 54 of the 55 of the African states in 14 months after its initial signature on 21 March 21st, 2018 in Kigali underlines Africa’s commitment to opening up its markets and borders to foster intra-Africa trade, and economic integration at a time when multilateralism and economic integration seem to be on the retreat in the international order.

Why is the coming into force of the AfCFTA a watershed event for Africa, governments, and the youth? The agreement initially requires members to remove tarrifs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent. The United Nations Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by a whooping 52% by the year 2022. This impetus towards closer economic integration is poised to change Africa forever. It also is about developmental integration, designed to promote structural transformation, lifting millions out of poverty, rather than being a traditional Free Trade Area agreement (FTA) focused on market liberalization.

The agreement covers goods and services, and has complementary programs for infrastructure, industrialization, agriculture modernization, small scale trade, as well as innovation, intellectual property, competition and investment. Lastly, the AfCFTA creates a common market in Africa with a combined GDP of US$6.7 trillion in purchasing power parity, business and annual consumer spending of US$ 4 trillion, is home to over 400 companies with revenues of over US$1 billion, comprises 60% of the world’s arable land and vast reservoirs of natural resources.

The AfCFTA dovetails very well with the AU’s Agenda 2063. Agenda 2063 was launched in the year 2013 by African Heads of States and Government during the 50-year Jubilee celebrations of the AU, is a 50-year blueprint and master plan to transform Africa into a global powerhouse by the year 2063. Agenda 2063 is a 50-year plan agreed upon by all members of the continental body in 2013.

However, six years after African government’s agreed on Agenda 2063, there is very little awareness about this transformative strategic framework amongst key constituencies within the continent, especially the youth. Agenda 2063 encapsulates not only Africa’s aspirations for the future but also identifies key flagship programmes which can boost Africa’s economic growth and development , and lead to the rapid transformation of the continent. The Youth are Africa’s future, comprising 60% of its population of 1.7 billion people by 2030, but they continue being sidelined in policy-making, execution and implementation of both government and private-sector programmes and investment projects.

In 2013, Africa had 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 (the youth bracket), making the African continent host to the youngest population in the world. This population is expected to, ceteris paribus, double by 2045, according to the 2012 Africa Economic Outlook report by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the industrialized countries’ Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), among others, and stand at 3 billion people by 2063. This means that Africa will be home to 30% of the global population by 2063, up from the current 10%. These are profound demographic transformations. 70% of this population will be youth.
Although African economies have been on the ascendancy in terms of economic growth, even as global economic growth and outlook slows down, courtesy of a slowdown in China, the Eurozone, Japan and the US – six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), but nevertheless the youth suffer from high levels of unemployment rate of as high as 6%, according to the AfDB, compared to the world average of 5%. It is a settled fact that youth unemployment “occurs at a rate more than twice that for adults,” according to the AfDB, meaning that youths account for 60% of all unemployed Africans, according to the World Bank. There are regional disparities however, with North Africa having a youth unemployment of 30%, and this figure is estimated to be higher in several Southern African states like Zimbabwe.
But these figures are an understatement as these statistics belie the fact that Africa’s unemployment statistics exclude those in vulnerable employment and those who are underemployed in informal sectors. “Young people [in Africa] find work, but not in places that pay good wages, develop skills or provide a measure of job security,” reports the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based public policy organization that conducts independent research. More than 70% of the youth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda are either self-employed or contributing to family work, and with about 10 million to 12 million young people joining the labour market each year, this exacerbates the productive employment challenge.

Previous efforts to address the African youth challenge have not been very successful. In 2009, the AU addressed itself to this challenge by declaring 2009–18 the “African Youth Decade” and resolved to mobilize resources, including from the private sector for youth development. Their plan of action emphasized the need to address both unemployment and underemployment. While the current Agenda creates a long-term 50-year development trajectory and identifies a tangible roadmap to redress the situation, it is hoped that African governments and the private sector will leverage the vast opportunities unleashed by the AfCFTA to bring down structural and systemic barriers hindering the employment and productive employment of the youth in enterprise. Non-tariff barriers to trade, it is hoped, will also be minimized, if not eliminated, to lower the cost of entry of youth and SMEs into private-business. Technology, higher and affordable connectivity, better infrastructure, upskilling, and easier migration policies and friendly border controls should also play a key role in enabling youth, and labor, to secure productive, and remunerative employment or to start their own businesses. Technology especially is expected to address the perennial challenges of access to markets, capital, skills, timely information and technical solutions given the growing penetration and usage of smart phones on the continent

In the end however, it is incumbent upon governments to move beyond paying lip-service to the youth bulge and unemployment crisis in Africa, walk the talk by creating a targeted, and harmonized set of incentives to kickstart African youth on their journey to self-fulfillment; upholding the tenets of the Africa Youth Agenda charter.

Public Policy Department

A crisis of confidence: What the Government needs to do to win over sceptics on the Big Four Agenda


Kenya has a huge budget deficit of Ksh. 600billion (US$6bn), roughly equivalent to a fifth of the Ksh. 3 trillion (US$30bn) Budget for the FY 2018/19. Analysts reckon that we are breaching the global benchmark for debt to GDP ratio. Government is unperturbed. Lenders, analysts, business and private-citizens citizens on the other hand, are worried stiff.

Were we ready for the Big Four Agenda?

This budget deficit is all the more pertinent given that government has to mobilize domestic financing to underwrite, and achieve President Kenyatta’s ambitious ‘Big Four Agenda’ by the end of 2022, when his second, and final five-year presidential term ends. The Big Four Agenda, President Kenyatta’s legacy project, has identified four goals – attainment of universal healthcare, increasing the share of the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP from the current 9% to 15%, building 500,000 affordable homes and achieving food security for the 45 million Kenyans by the 2022 – as a panacea to the overcome the endemic socio-economic factors that hinder the attainment of the annualized 10% gross domestic product (GDP) growth that the country needs as base to become a middle-income economy by the year 2030.

Government avers that these priority sectors, and enablers like the digital economy and the massive investment in infrastructure undertaken over the last decade, are what underpin Kenya’s quest to become a middle-income economic status by 2030, lifting millions of Kenyans out of poverty, as laid out in the second Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) 2018-2022 of the Vision 2030 Development program.

To achieve these lofty goals, and to meet its domestic revenue targets to finance these projects, the national government has identified the digital economy as a potentially lucrative corporate and individual tax base, amongst a handful of other sectors like the construction industry and the ‘sin’ industry – alcoholic beverages, tobacco manufacturers and distributors, and the betting, gaming and lotteries industry. Private-sector and analysts opine that further taxation will only drive the sectors to their knees, kill innovation and jobs, outrightly killing the goose that lays the golden egg, further expanding the untaxed, unregulated, informal, grey economy, killing the very essence of this initiative.

Sections of the private-sector and general public are skeptical of the viability of the Big Four Agenda projects and targets. And they point out that there is ample evidence to back their claims. That though public-private-partnerships (PPPs) are a great avenue for mobilizing cheap private-sector capital, excellent professional competencies and economies of scale to implement these projects, the robustness of the preferred Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) implementation models, tight lead times and implementation deadlines place onerous demands on the sector and shift the burden to the sector without adequate information about the Big Four Agenda.

Further, they argue that the limited public and private-sector participation in the identification of the priority sectors, and formulation of the flagship projects; a mixed track record of success in Kenya’s structuring and implementation of other PPP projects, including the robustness of the existent PPP policy and legal framework; rampant corruption in government tendering and award of projects; limited balance sheets of implementing agencies and ineffectual exit strategies for investors; inadequate risk-sharing between government and the private-sector; rising country borrowing leading to indebtedness and raising the default risk; unresolved stakeholder issues around land; and a shaky financial forecasting as government contribution is based on projected tax revenues that focus on the existing, thin and already over-taxed tax base all elevate the risk profile of these projects and government is unwilling to commensurately insure against these elevated risks.

However, government and technocrats are confident about the projects financial and technical feasibility. Government avers that these priority sectors, and enablers like the digital economy and the massive investment in infrastructure undertaken over the last decade, are the what is needed to achieve middle-income economic status by 2030, lifting millions of Kenyans out of poverty, as laid out in the second Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) 2018-2022 of the Vision 2030 Development program.

What does the government need to do to win over sceptics?

To allay these fears, and win over skeptics and the growing list of naysayers, government, especially the President’s Delivery Unit (PDU) under which the Agenda falls, needs to climb from its high hobby-horse and address these concerns. Citizens and the private sector need assurances that these are not conduits for corruption and that the projects will not turn out to be white-elephants. This can be achieved through targeted, believable, open-minded communication and engagement.

The PPP Amendment Bill needs to be fast-tracked, aggressively and widely disseminated so that the sought-after amendments capture the letter and spirit of what the Kenyan people aspire to in the PPP Framework. We have interfaced with PPPs and concessions for over a decade and have varied experiences – why has this worked in the energy sector? Why did it fail in the Kenya Railways-Rift Valley Railways? Why have the 73 PPP projects stalled over the last four years?

Government needs to show unwavering commitment to, and tangible results, for its much-talked about anti-graft purge and lifestyle audit. Without high profile convictions, and asset-recovery to show for this purge, this will remain another Kenyan talk-shop, and no right-thinking Kenyans will part with their hard-earned money for another nebulous government adventure.

Lastly, government needs to be open and transparent about the level of indebtedness and types of contacts signed with different lenders, especially the Chinese. Under the Access to Information Act 2016, and the commitment to the second phase of the Open Governance Initiative, what would be more assuring than an open audit of the debt, contracts entered into, repayments and value-for-money disclosures?

By Hezron Gikanga,
Account Director,
Government Relations/Public Affairs

The potential of climate smart agriculture in achieving food security

By: Tengetile Mphila

The challenges that the world has been facing over the past decades as a result of global warming and climate change have been devastating. Most economies, especially those that are fully dependent on agriculture are still trying to figure out ways to boost their economies as well as manage to be food secure. In many African countries, smallholder farmers are one of the most vulnerable groups to climate change, yet efforts to support farmer adaptation are hindered by the lack of financial support and information on how they are experiencing and responding to climate change. The introduction of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) was as a result of these challenges and also to be a solution to the weakening agriculture sector of many countries.

CSA may be defined as an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural development under the new realities of climate change. The definition provided by FAO is that CSA
is agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience, reduces/removes greenhouse gases where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security
and development goals.

This type of agriculture puts into consideration the climatic conditions of a certain area then comes up with the best suitable agricultural practices for that area. This is the best and most efficient way to save resources at the same time achieve good results. If applied well, this could be one of the best ways to achieve the food security pillar of the Kenyan government’s Big Four Agenda. Research shows that farmers in Kenya are slowly adapting to Climate Smart Agriculture. Amongst other reasons, the slow adaptation is as a result of financial inabilities to practice CSA. Hence, there is need for not only the government of Kenya, but all governments in the continent to capitalize on this practice as a way of achieving food security.

CSA not only looks at farming but has a wide range of entry points such as information technologies, insurance schemes, value chains and the strengthening of institutional and political enabling environments. The integration of these entry points and the consideration of solutions in the form of agri-insurance, agri-technology agri-finance is vital for farmers who are working tirelessly to ensure that there is food security for all.

Agribusiness Today Magazine aims to be one of the solutions for Kenyan farmers. Through its seven pillars, the magazine seeks to bring together stakeholders with solutions for all the farmers problems. Such solutions come in the form of information about agri-finance, agri-technology, manufacturing, agri-insurance and how to access the stakeholders dealing with each pillar. Since CSA requires financial support, the agri-finance and agri-insurance pillars of the magazine aim to bring smart financial solutions to farmers which will enhance them to yield good results and also help the government of Kenya to realize its agenda of enhancing food security in the country.

Agriculture: the path to achieving the Big Four Agenda

By Tengetile Mphila

The agriculture sector plays a vital role in the Kenyan economy. It accounts for 65 per cent of the export earnings, and provides the livelihood (employment, income and food security needs) for more than 80 per cent of the Kenyan population and contributes to improving nutrition through production of safe, diverse and nutrient dense foods. Agriculture is therefore the solution to achieving President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.

About the Big Four Agenda

Announced by the President on 12 December 2017, the four pillars of the big four agenda are the expansion of manufacturing industry, affordable housing, food security and affordable health care. These are meant to ensure that Kenyans secure employment and improve their livelihoods.

The expansion of the manufacturing industry is meant to increase job creation as well as the production of better goods which will in turn boost the economy. More focus is on the blue economy, agro-processing, leather and textile industries. The reduction of the cost of mortgages, raising low cost funds in both private and public for investment in large scale house construction and cutting the cost of construction by use of innovative ways and materials these are meant to help achieve affordable housing. The president through the affordable health care pillar intends to provide 100% universal health cover such that by 2022 every Kenyan will have medical cover. To achieve food security, the cost of food will be reduced, large scale commercial farming will be encouraged, small holder productivity will also be boosted, training of SMEs in food processing along the value chain and many other ways to ensure that all come to fruition.

Agriculture touches on three of the pillars of the Big Four Agenda. Since the agriculture sector is fully devolved in Kenya, this will help in ensuring that all the counties fully participate in realizing the President’s agenda. Hence, in order to achieve the Big Four, there should be more focus on agriculture. More investments need to be dedicated to agriculture. This can be done by supporting agribusinesses and opening avenues for youth to fully participate in agriculture for the sustainability of the sector. Supporting the sector will mean that the health pillar will benefit and food security will be attained. In order to have the manufacturing industry perform well, the workers should be in a healthy state so that they can be productive. Agriculture should therefore be at the forefront of the President’s Big Four Agenda.

Photo Credit: KARLO

The true colour of your Brand

What is the real color of apple juice? Is it black, brown, or gold? I posed this question to a few colleagues in the office and the responses I got were very interesting. One said that apple juice is the color of ‘strong tea’ if you are an African you can relate. Other responses were; color of beer, brown, golden brown, dark brown almost black! From these responses, it is clear that people see things in different perspectives depending on how they have interacted with them
It is the same way people perceive brands. What is the ‘colour’ of your brand? What ‘colour’ does your target market associate your brand with? The responses that will be given will be based on the kind of interaction the target market has had with your brand. If they experienced poor customer service or they love your products and services, or how efficient your company is then they will give the ‘colour’ in relation to that. The question we should be asking ourselves is, What ‘color’ do we want people to see of us?

PR is about building the reputation of a company in order to win more customers and to retain the ones we already have. PR might be talking of how efficient, caring, industry leader with best products and services your company offers but on the contrary, your company could not be practising them hence the target audience get a different ‘color’ of your company. As George Bradt wrote, “They won’t believe what you say. They will believe what you do. It only works when what you believe, do and say align.” For PR to be effective, companies should strive to give their best to the target market consistently.

A story was once told of a restaurant that offered good service to its customers on the initial days after its establishment however, as the months went by, customers started reducing in number as a result of poor customer service and some were complaining how the quality of food has gone down. Eventually, the restaurant closed down. The news information was contrary to the services being offered and as a result, customers got a different ‘colour’ of the restaurant. Nothing kills credibility faster than not practising what is preached. If the restaurant had practised what they preached consistently, it would have retained its original ‘color’.

Therefore it is important that we professionals set good examples that will translate into positive public acceptance. You can do little things like greeting your colleagues or customers well, presenting yourself to the pubic in a clean professional manner, being courteous and even doing something as simple as appreciating every act of kindness from other people. These all contribute to clearing up poor stereotypes that might be held by the public. Remember PR is about reputation.
What is the true ‘color ’of your brand?

Live a plastic-free life

People can be so pushy. I know, it sounds like this is going to be one long whining session, but I promise you it’s not. I had to put that out there because that’s how I feel today. Pushed, forced out of my corner (where I was sulking) like toothpaste from a tube. I didn’t want to do anything because I was in my corner curled like a baby, thumb in mouth – ok scratch that, for some reasons it has an underlying tone that’s not childish at all – let’s stick with me curled in the corner sulking.

There’s been no coffee in the office for about two weeks and the effects were so evident. My colleagues are walking around with sad faces and plastic smiles. Nekesa, the ever bubbly office noisemaker, stopped coming, Solomon sits at the corner and says nothing while Paul now shows up every day. Since the coffee ran out, the guy has been here every day. This is something worth looking into closely. Such strange behaviour. Then there’s the ‘we eat healthy’ team. The avocado girl (that’s Lulu by the way) and the ‘nduma’ girl (that’s the one who sits next to Lulu) and for the life of me I can’t remember what ‘nduma’ is in English, but they are amazing. Yes I tasted them, well actually ate half of what she’d brought for lunch. Oh then there’s the little person, sits right behind me, and the tall one, who sits right at the door. And she’s maasai. I wonder whether she was placed there on purpose. I know what you’re thinking, and that’s on you. Allan and Allan, sit together. One is big and one is small, and they sit in that order from the door. Please note these sizes were prescribed by a lady. The tall one at the door. And so that’s the office gang.

Why did I describe the office gang, well it’s been hell the last two weeks. The kind of hell that’s caused by plastics clogging the drainage system in this city Nairobi. If NEMA officials (that’s the environmental authority, I just thought you should know) were to walk into this office they’d shut it down. The amount of plastic smiles and handshakes that went round, oh my plastic. It was so plastic the cleaning lady changed (I hear the previous one was put in a family way, I wonder if it’s by someone in the office, could it be? There’s quite some young blood, two suspects to be precise) and the one who comes now seems plastic. She scares me the way she smiles at me every time she brings in the cups. Long plastic smile. But then shouldn’t we be used to the plastic lives we live? From bottles to money, we’ve become so plastic that our immunity to pollution and the discomfort it brings has grown. And the filth builds up, entrenching itself in the way we govern and do business. So plastic are we that we don’t realise the pain this filth causes.

Well as we celebrate the world environment day this week, it should have been a whole week celebration, let’s rid ourselves of this plastic life. Let’s clean up the environment and our hearts too. Let’s smile more, for real this time, and warm the world (the office in this case) and we can all make it a better place to be in.
Tom ‘the money guy’ Kahehura is here, we got coffee yesterday, Nekesa is back, Paul is still here and we can hear Solomon speaking from the corner. Oh what magic the coffee brings. Hezron is missing, someone needs to find him. Allan and Allan are still next to each other, the little person is still behind me and the tall one is there at the door. Team ‘healthy eating’ are still next to each other. But you know what the most amazing difference is?

No more plastic.

Have plastic free day.