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Ethiopia: EVICTED AND ABANDONED: THE WORLD BANK’S BROKEN PROMISE TO THE POOR: How a World Bank Translator Became a Hunted Man October 8, 2015

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Human rights advocates criticize the bank for failing to speak up about the jailing of a former employee

Pastor Omot Agwa knew he was in danger.

“Greetings from Ethiopia in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote in an online message to friends and colleagues on March 11, 2015. “I am informing you that since yesterday I have been hunted by security.”

The gentle, round-faced church leader had long been an embarrassment to Ethiopia’s authoritarian regime. As a prominent leader of the Anuak, a heavily Christian indigenous group, Agwa had spoken out against alleged beatings and killings of his kinsmen by government forces.

Days before his message, a federal agent had come looking for him at the Mekane Yesus Seminary, the evangelical church that he belonged to in Addis Ababa.

“He wants to arrest me,” Agwa wrote. “If I keep silent without communicating I will be in custody.”

The Ethiopian regime had various reasons for wanting to arrest Agwa, but at that moment, one loomed large: he had recently served as a translator and consultant for an investigation into whether government authorities had used World Bank money to bankroll a campaign of violent evictions targeting Agwa’s Anuak community.

The soft-spoken pastor arranged interviews for the bank’s Inspection Panel, its internal watchdog, with Anuak who told World Bank investigators about beatings, rapes and summary executions by Ethiopian soldiers —placing Ethiopia’s lucrative aid package from the bank into jeopardy. Months later, Agwa translated for a reporter from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on a newsgathering trip to Ethiopia.

Omot AgwaPastor Omot Agwa worked as a translator for the World Bank before his arrest. Image: Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas / WG Films

In February 2015, the Inspection Panel released its report, faulting the bank for failing to properly scrutinize the Ethiopian government’s programs before giving money to the regime.  Soon after, Ethiopian government agents began hunting for Agwa, visiting his church, his family and leaving messages on his phone, he told human rights groups.

“I have locked myself in the room now,” the frightened pastor wrote in his distress message. “Please pray for me for God’s protection and I don’t know what to do.”

He was arrested four days later as he tried to leave the country on a flight to Kenya. In September, Ethiopian authorities indicted him on terrorism charges.

Human Rights Watch called the charges “absurd,” a transparent attempt to punish Agwa for exposing government abuses and to intimidate other Anuak into silence.

But another key player in the church leader’s case has made no public objections: his former employer, the World Bank.

World Bank officials say Ethiopian authorities have assured them that Agwa’s arrest had nothing to do with his work for the bank’s Inspection Panel. The bank won’t comment on whether it believes the charges against Agwa are valid. And the bank has continued its financial relationship with Ethiopia’s government—approving more than $1.3 billion in loans to the regime since it learned of its former employee’s arrest.

“The World Bank just abandoned him,” said Obang Metho, the executive director of the advocacy group Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, who once belonged to Agwa’s congregation. “Had they not told Omot to investigate this, he would be at home today with his family.”

The World Bank’s decision to continue bankrolling Ethiopia’s government in the aftermath of allegations of human rights abuse is not unusual. The bank has repeatedly refused to intercede on behalf of protesters or local communities when they are mistreated by borrowing governments or to cut off funding in such instances, ICIJ, The Huffington Post and other media partners reported in September.

The bank maintains that as a development lender, it has a specific and limited mandate.  The bank’s rules against violent evictions, abuse of indigenous peoples and other safeguards apply to the projects it finances, not all activities of its borrowers.

Jim Yong Kim.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim. Photo: AP Photo/Geraldo Caso Bizama

The World Bank’s charter specifies that “the Bank and its officers shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member”—a clause that the bank has long interpreted as a prohibition against advocating for human rights.

Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, charged in a recent report that the bank has misinterpreted this ban on political interference  to justify treating human rights “more like an infectious disease than universal values.”

Alston said that while he generally opposes across-the-board sanctions as a reaction to wrongdoing by a borrower country, they could be justified in extreme cases and that the bank needs to develop clear guidelines for responding to cases of retaliation and other abuses by its borrowers.

The World Bank declined to answer questions for this story.

In a statement to ICIJ after the terrorism charges against Agwa were revealed, the bank said it often works “in places with complex political and social issues. When allegations of reprisal are brought to our attention, we work, within the scope of our mandate, with appropriate parties to try to address them. We have made several inquiries about Pastor Omot Agwa since his arrest in March 2015 and detention.”

The Ethiopian government did not respond to requests for comment to its embassy in Washington, D.C., and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Pastor and activist

The case of Omot Agwa offers a striking view of the bank’s hands-off approach.

Agwa was born in the fertile, low-lying Ethiopian state of Gambella, a traditional homeland of the Anuak, an indigenous tribe of several hundred thousand people living in Ethiopia and South Sudan. He attended an American missionary school and was “born again” as a Christian in first grade, establishing his lifelong ties to the Protestant church. He went on to earn scholarships for Bible translation that set him on a path to church leadership.

As he drew closer to the evangelical church, Agwa retained a strong Anuak identity. When he was a teenager, Agwa had the six front teeth on the bottom half of his mouth plucked out in a traditional initiation rite.

“If your teeth are still there they say that, one, you are not pure Anuak,” the pastor explained last July, a mischievous smile crossing his face, “and second, that your face looks very ugly because your mouth looks like a goat’s mouth.”

An outbreak of violence in December 2003 prompted Agwa to take his first steps into activism. Ethiopian soldiers and members of Ethiopia’s lighter-skinned ethnic majority slaughtered hundreds of Anuak in the state of Gambella’s capital. Agwa survived by hiding inside a friend’s house.

By that time a well-known church leader, Agwa collected the names of the dead and traveled to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to seek out human rights groups that could spread word of the massacre beyond Ethiopia’s borders.

“I went to Oxfam America, I knocked on their door,” he said, “and they interviewed me in their office where, for the first time, I weeped. I cried loudly because I was traumatized, and it was a time now that I was released.”

Human Rights Watch later determined that 424 people from Gambella had died in the massacre.

Collecting names of the dead

Hear Omot Agwa’s account of hiding in a friend’s house as gunshots echoed outside during a 2003 massacre in Gambella, Ethiopia.

In the following years, Agwa’s fluent English and ties to the Protestant church made him a frequently sought out liaison by human rights observers and others who wanted to know more about the government’s repression of the Anuak.

In 2010, federal authorities launched the “villagization program,” a massive campaign in Gambella and three other rural states to relocate Anuak and other minorities into government-sponsored villages. The government said the plan was intended to provide health, education and other essential services, but many Anuak denounced it as a land grab and refused to move from their ancestral homes.

The former governor of Gambella described personally diverting roughly $10 million in World Bank money intended for the health and education program to finance a series of violent evictions of the Anuak, ICIJ reported in April.

When the World Bank’s Inspection Panel came to Ethiopia in February 2014 to investigate abuse accusations, it hired Agwa as a consultant and interpreter. Agwa travelled with the investigators through the communities in Gambella where he had grown up, translating interviews with Anuak villagers. One man who was interviewed reported that an Anuak who was a member of the Ethiopian military’s Special Forces was shot dead on the spot by a government police officer after he refused an order to evict fellow tribe members from their farms.

In summer 2014, Agwa worked with ICIJ during a reporting trip in Ethiopia to explore the alleged abuses linked to the villagization program. Despite his fears that he would be discovered by federal agents, Agwa assisted an ICIJ reporter with steady good humor, interspersing his painful recollections with an infectious smile and frequent references to his Christian faith.

When the Inspection Panel published its findings in February 2015, security police began looking for him soon after, Agwa reported to human rights groups.

The government claims the Swiss church charity’s workshop that Agwa was traveling to when he was arrested was a “terrorist group meeting.”

On a telephone call the night before his arrest, Agwa said the police were after him because of his work with the Inspection Panel, according to David Pred, managing director of Inclusive Development International, one of the human rights groups supporting Agwa.

On March 15, Agwa sought to leave the country for a food security workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, organized by the Swiss Protestant church charity Bread for All.

He made it as far as the airport.

Ethiopian security forces arrested Agwa in Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport and locked him up without charges, along with six other indigenous and pastoralist leaders on their way to the gathering in Kenya, according to human rights groups.

Church in Gorom refugee campAnuak refugees, who fled Ethiopia, worship at a church in the Gorom Refugee Camp in South Sudan. Photo:Andreea CampeanuThe arrest of the well-known church leader set off a flurry of activity by Agwa’s allies. They struggled to find out why Agwa had been detained, and pressed the U.S. State Department and European embassies in Ethiopia to appeal to the Ethiopian government for his release.

Both the human rights groups and the World Bank—as well as ICIJ—agreed to keep the matter quiet so that the Ethiopian regime could release the outspoken pastor without losing face.

On March 31, little more than two weeks after Agwa’s arrest, the World Bank made a move that surprised Agwa’s defenders: it approved a $350 million loan to the Ethiopian government. The money supported a five-year initiative to improve productivity and market access among small farmers.

Agwa was locked up in the Maekelawi police station, a site notorious for the torture of political dissidents. He was held for three weeks in solitary confinement, supporters say. For months after, his family was not allowed to visit him.

His supporters still hoped that the Ethiopian government might let Agwa free.  Instead, on Sept. 7, Ethiopian authorities charged the pastor with terrorism, alleging that Agwa’s contacts with an Anuak activist in London were a conspiracy to plan armed attacks in Ethiopia, according to a charging document obtained by ICIJ. The government claims the Swiss church charity’s workshop that Agwa was traveling to when he was arrested was a “terrorist group meeting.”

Human rights groups familiar with Ethiopian law say if convicted, Agwa would face a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

The Ethiopian government has not responded to repeated requests for comment about Agwa. It is possible that authorities are in possession of evidence that would support their claims against the pastor. But Ethiopia has a  history of using its anti-terrorism laws as a weapon against journalists and political activists, and human rights groups that are active in the country say the government trumped up the charges against Agwa in order to silence him.

On September 15, just over a week after the government filed formal charges, the World Bank approved a new $600 million loan to the Ethiopian government.

The newest round of financing is for a project the bank says is intended to improve health, education and other services. It replaced a central component of the same health and education program that Agwa had helped investigate. Despite the testimony facilitated by Agwa that detailed abuses by Ethiopian officials associated with the program, the bank decided to continue funding a similar arrangement into the year 2019.

Human rights groups say they informed the World Bank of Ethiopia’s terrorism charges almost immediately after they were filed.

“I have no doubt that if they intend to convict him, they will,” said David Pred of Inclusive Development International. “He’s facing 20 years to life, which is a death sentence.”

Obang Metho, the Ethiopian activist who remembers Agwa as his former pastor, said that losing the imprisoned church leader would be a crushing blow for the Anuak people.

“Omot is not just a translator,” Metho said. “He is a husband, he is a father, he is a pastor. . . . The community loved and respected him.”

Worldwatch Institute:Land “Grabbing” Grows as Agricultural Resources Dwindle October 8, 2015

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Land “Grabbing” Grows as Agricultural Resources Dwindle

As global agricultural resources shrink or shift, countries are crossing border to obtain new farmlands

Worldwatch Institute, October 6, 2015


Washington, D.C.Since 2000, more than 36 million hectares—an area about the size of Japan—has been purchased or leased by foreign entities, mostly for agricultural use. Today, nearly 15 million hectares more is under negotiation (www.worldwatch.org).

“Farmland is lost or degraded on every continent, while ‘land grabbing’—the purchase or lease of agricultural land by foreign interests—has emerged as a threat to food security in several countries,” writes Gary Gardner, contributing author of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2015: Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability.

About half of grabbed land is intended exclusively for use in agriculture, while another 25 percent is intended for a mix of agricultural and other uses. (The land that is not used for agriculture is often used for forestry.) Land grabbing has surged since 2005 in response to a food price crisis and the growing demand for biofuels in the United States and the European Union. Droughts in the United States, Argentina, and Australia, has further driven interest in land overseas.

“Today, the FAO reports that essentially no additional suitable [agricultural] land remains in a belt around much of the middle of the planet,” writes Gardner. As a result, the largest grabbers of land are often countries that need additional resources to meet growing demands.

Over half of the global grabbed land is in Africa, especially in water-rich countries like the Congo. Asia comes second, contributing over 6 million hectares, mainly from Indonesia. The largest area acquired from a single country is in Papua New Guinea, with nearly 4 million hectares (over 8 percent of the country’s total land cover) sold or leased out.

The largest investor country is the United States, a country already rich in agricultural land. The United States alone has acquired about 7 million hectares worldwide. Malaysia comes in a distant second, with just over 3.5 million hectares acquired.

Land grabbing is precipitated by the growing challenges shaking the foundation of food production: the water, land, and climate that make crop growth possible. Globally, some 20 percent of aquifers are being pumped faster than they are recharged by rainfall, stressing many key food-producing areas. Land is becoming degraded through erosion and salinization or is getting paved for development. The changing climate is projected to cause a net decline of 0.2–2 percent in crop yields per decade over the remainder of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The dangers of land grabbing are evident. Large-scale purchases often do not consider the interests of smallholders who may have been working the land over a long period. Additionally, the transfer of resources from poorer countries to wealthier ones increases the vulnerability of the target countries that surrender their own access to land and water resources to foreign investors and governments.

“As demand for agricultural goods increases, and as our planet’s water and fertile land become more scarce and its atmosphere less stable, greater effort will be needed to conserve resources and to exploit opportunities for greater efficiency throughout the agricultural system,” writes Gardner.

By preventing food waste, increasing water efficiency, conserving agricultural land, and decreasing production of meat and biofuels (both of which require large quantities of land and water for grain or crops), Gardner believes that the stress on food systems can be reduced. In addition, the international adoption of the right to food, already integrated in the constitutions of 28 countries, will ensure that food cannot be withheld for political reasons.

Worldwatch’s State of the World 2015 investigates hidden threats to sustainability, including economic, political, and environmental challenges that are often underreported in the media. State of the World 2015 highlights the need to develop resilience to looming shocks. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2015-confronting-hidden-threats-sustainability-0.




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ethi_famine_30_years1414175983Drought, food crisis and famine in Afar state captured through social media, August 2015



By J. Bonsa,  Opride Contributors, 8 October 2015





On Sept.13, the BBC World Service aired the first segment of a two-part documentary entitled: Africa Surprising. As part of the series, journalist Hugh Sykes reported thatEthiopia has achieved a number of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ahead of schedule.

Ethiopia has long been praised for being “on track to meet most of the MDGs by 2015 if progress continues or the pace increased.” Earlier this year, the Horn of Africa nation declared achieving a few of the targets even before the end of 2015. Sykes’ aim was to capture this “exceptional success story.”

Unfortunately, the report illustrates the Western media’s sloppy and superficial coverage of African success stories. At least in Ethiopia, the much-celebrated storyline does not actually exist on the ground.

The BBC documentary

The most central and relevant part of the broadcast is Sykes’ visit to a health center in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. It is unclear how the BBC chose to profile this particular site, but Ethiopians know that such matters are typically handled by the regime. Authorities pick a site, tidy up everything and then let unsuspecting visitors or journalists such as Sykes in at their own convenience. As Sykes walked around the clinic, he noticed that the doctors and nurses greeted him with “broad smiles.” Their exuberance looked too unreal that Sykes had to ask why they were smiling so much. “They were so happy for over achieving the MDGs ahead of time,” a health staffer murmured. Of course, they had to smile, how else could they keep their jobs and a straight face while talking about a barely existent achievement?

It is startling that an astute journalist like Sykes was not aware that the whole thing was a setup. Ethiopia’s success stories are often created by manufacturing data or instructing project managers on how to provide information to foreign journalists. (In the case of journalists at the state-run media, reporters are given instructions on how to tell such stories.) In the BBC documentary, the clinic’s staffers appear a bit overzealous to the point of making Sykes uncomfortable. He asks what exactly they did to reach their targets ahead of schedule. Among other things, they recounted their work educating families on the benefits of breastfeeding and family planning. Incidentally, one of Ethiopia’s MDG success stories is the reduction of birth rates through a “highly successful and exemplary family planning” scheme. Little do reporters like Sykes or novice Western researchers know that the decrease in birth rate has nothing to do with the government’s family planning but the excessive outmigration of large cohorts of young women to the Middle East and South Africa, among other places.

In 2012 alone, an estimated 500,000 migrants, mostly young women, migrated to the Middle East. At that rate, several millions of female in fertile age group have left the country in search of better opportunities over the past few years. (The 2012 estimate doesn’t include migration to destinations other than the Middle East.)

Importantly, the excessive outmigration of Ethiopia’s youth is a reflection of dire poverty, and failure to achieve the MDGs. This outflow has intensified since the MDGs were put in place. Despite this, Sykes seems to nod, admire and move on. “Over the last ten years we achieved more than what was achieved during the previous century,” Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, told Skyes, an audacious and superfluous claim that the journalist let stand.

The series wrapped up by paying lip service to the truth: Sykes showed high rise buildings within a few meters of slums with shabby dwellings, rusty tin roofs and muddy walls; executives with stylish modern suits walking on the same streets with bony beggars; SUVs shuffling along with donkeys and goats on the streets, etc. He then offered a faint reference to ruling party’s embarrassing declaration of 100 percent electoral victory in May, alluding to a familiar storyline — Ethiopia’s economic rise despite a few governance hiccups here and there.

The paradox of double-digit growth

Ethiopia’s so-called double-digit economic growth brings to mind German politician Joseph Goebbels’propaganda principles: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

The regime in Addis Ababa has ridden Ethiopia of educated manpower so much that the capacity to put numbers together and generate sensible economic statistics and estimate reasonable economic growth rates has been grossly diminished over the years. This is not a place to delve into the niceties of GDP estimation and growth rate calculations. By government’s own admission, almost all of the last five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP I) targets have not been achieved, with all large infrastructural projects stuck at their early phases. However, the GDP growth rates remained more or less at the level forecast at the plan’s preparation stage. If all economic activities have not reached their goals as planned (in fact most lagged behind anticipated targets), how did Ethiopia somehow manage toachieve only the MDG targets, before schedule at that?

From SAPs to MDGs

The distribution of income and wealth are aspects of economic progress that are most relevant to the MDGs. The widening gulf between the haves and have-nots in Ethiopia does not require a journalist or any analyst to leave Addis Ababa.  The alarming increase in the number of beggars in the streets and the exodus of unemployed youth across deserts and high seas are sufficient to inform any observer interested in arriving at a balanced assessment. But such a story may not generate enough clicks in donor countries. It may also undercut the Western narrative of saviordom that’s driven by the aid-industrial complex.

Why are donor countries and their institutions so keen to tell the “Ethiopia rising” story to the extent of getting ordinary Ethiopians irritated and uncomfortable?  It is appropriate to provide a broader background on the origins of the MDGs.

Back in the 1980s, African governments were told to adjust their economies to market rules through structural adjustment programs (SAPs). There was little to no concern with “poverty” in the West. Laissez-faire economics or economic policy based on market rules was the order of the day.

By mid-1990s, the failure of SAPs became apparent, primarily because they gave rise to widening gaps in income distribution and propagation of poverty, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, who promoted SAPs, were at one point even referred to as Lords of Poverty. However, rich western nations were behind these multilateral agencies, arm-twisting leaders of developing countries to adjust their economies to the needs to the “global economy,” a proxy for the economies of the industrialized countries.

Western powers and their multilateral agencies reluctantly acknowledged the failure of laissez-faire economic policies and replaced them with the MDGs amid pressure from their progressive constituents, presumably to redress the damage caused to the developing countries’ economies. MDGs were grouped into sets of eight targets and handed over to developing countries with a condition that development aid would be strictly linked to achievements of the MDGs.

Statistical lies

When the MDGs came into existence, Ethiopia’s current rulers had already been in power for more than ten years. The regime immediately became a darling of the West because of massive poverty, which led to the outpouring of a substantial amount of development aid over the last two decades. The coupling of development aid with the achievement of MDGs target has created a precondition and breeding ground for misreporting on achievements of those targets.In dictatorial regimes like Ethiopia, numbers related to achievements can easily get churned out and systematically built over the years.

It is often hoped that donor countries, and the United Nations, which is responsible for monitoring the progress on MDGs, would scrutinize data accuracy and ensure that the targets have genuinely been achieved. That is the ideal scenario, but we live in the real world, not in the ideal world. In the real world, the required level of scrutiny does not often come into existence simply because it is costly to setup and operationalize them. To begin with, donors often assign inexperienced and naïve staff with skills unfit for the purpose of managing large and complex programs and projects. Additionally, donor agencies and NGOs have a responsibility to report back to their governments or fund providers on implementations of programs they are entrusted with. Therefore, it is not in the interest of such agencies to report program or project failures.

The Ethiopian regime has often presented itself as a key partner with the Western powers. Geopolitical interest and the excessive weight assigned to security concerns mean authorities in Addis Ababa could do anything and get away with it.  This has adversely affected scrutiny on MDGs progress. No analyst or reporter would dare to question records supplied by officials in Addis Ababa. A journalist or researcher, who tries to shed some doubt on the credibility of official statistics, would be harshly treated, including expulsion with short notice or even physical attacks.

It is also abundantly clear that there is a tacit understanding between the Ethiopian government and the donor agencies not to scrutinize Ethiopia’s record on MDGs to a required extent. Donors need a foreign aid success story. Besides, for fear of political backlash from the general public, Western leaders would not object to the success story lines. It is in this scheme of things that the Western media appear to be given the role of generating the “Ethiopia rising” or “Africa Rising” storylines to enhance the “feel good factor” in donor countries. The increasingly muzzled Ethiopian public can do little more than helplessly watching this drama being played out in the name of poverty reduction.

Finfinnee Radio: Journalist Yassin Jumma’s Interview with Jabber Ismael, an Oromo refguee in Kenyan Nairobi October 8, 2015

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Oromia: URGENT APPEAL TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES #Oromo Refugee Community Welfare Association, Kenya February 14, 2015   



What are the 10 most competitive economies in sub-Saharan #Africa? October 8, 2015

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???????????Ethiopia Least competetive GCI 002

What are the 10 most competitive economies in sub-Saharan Africa?

By  Caroline Galvan, World Economic Forum, Sep 30 2015


Despite growth averaging more than 5% a year since the turn of the century, sub-Saharan Africa’s economies remain largely noncompetitive: only three of the region’s countries – Mauritius (46th), South Africa (49th) and Rwanda (58th) three – rank in the top half of the 2015-2016 edition of the Global Competitiveness Index, and they occupy 15 of the bottom 20 places.

In general, the region has made progress in efficiency-enhancing market reform, especially in goods market, but has much more to do to improve its institutions, infrastructure, and health and education sectors, all areas in which reforms will take time to reap benefits. With a coming youth bulge – by 2035, more people will be reaching working age in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world put together – the need to improve education systems is especially urgent.

The recent fall in commodity prices, putting more pressure on many countries in the region, has also accentuated the need to prioritize competitiveness-enhancing reforms.

Mauritius. Although still the top-ranked country in sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritius dropped seven places to 46th (out of 140) in the overall rankings this year – the first fall down the Index after a decade of improvements. This is accounted for important drops in three of the 12 pillars (overall six pillars are losing places) on which the Index is based, labour market efficiency, financial market development and market size. Still, some fundamentals remain strong: Mauritius has the region’s most efficient goods market, best infrastructure and most healthy and educated workforce. To move further up the development ladder it particularly needs to improve the quality of higher education, the rate at which it adopts new technologies and its capacity to nurture innovation.


South Africa. Moving in the opposite direction to Mauritius, South Africa climbs seven places to 49th. It has improved year-on-year in its uptake of ICTs and established itself as the region’s most innovative economy. South Africa also tops the region for the efficiency of its financial markets, a pillar on which it ranks 12thglobally. It performs reasonably strongly on the pillars of infrastructure and institutions, although corruption and security remain concerns, but needs to make progress on health and education.

Rwanda. Advancing four places for the second year in a row, Rwanda’s overall position of 58th reflects improvements in the financial development pillar – especially regulation of securities exchanges – and business sophistication. It scores 8thglobally for labour market efficiency, thanks in part to the third-highest female labour participation rate in the world, and 17th globally for the strength of its public and private institutions. However, improvements are needed in some fundamental areas of competitiveness including infrastructure, health and higher education.

Botswana. Up three places to 71st, Botswana posts a top-10 score globally for the stability of its macroeconomic environment. It also boasts relatively strong rankings on institutions and labour market efficiency. Despite some improvements in the last year, however, the health and primary education pillar remains its weakest, with the impact of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis contributing to the second-lowest life expectancy among the 140 economies surveyed.

Namibia. Advancing for the third year in a row, Namibia gains three places to rank 85th in the global Index. It registered year-on-year improvements in nine of the 12 pillars, most notably business sophistication and innovation – albeit from a low base. It improved its score on its strongest pillar, institutions, but slipped back on its weakest, health and primary education; as in Botswana, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS remain among the biggest concerns.

Cote d’Ivoire. Leaping 24 places in the last year alone to reach 91st in the overall Index, Cote d’Ivoire has now progressed 40 places in the last three years. It has improved year-on-year on every pillar except for the macroeconomic environment, posting its biggest gains in areas such as innovation, financial market development and institutions – all pillars on which it scores in the top half globally. Despite progress also in health and primary education and higher education and training, they remain its weakest area.

Zambia. Although occupying the same position in the Index as last year, 96th, Zambia has noticeably progressed on some pillars while regressing on others. It has improved its score on macroeconomic stability, for example, with progress on the government budget balance – albeit from a low base – and public debt. However, it drops heavily on the pillars of business sophistication, goods market efficiency and financial market development.

Seychelles. Despite being considerably wealthier than the seven countries in the region that rank as more competitive, the Seychelles loses ground for the third year in a row, dropping five places to 97th overall. The country’s competitiveness is held back by a small market size, scoring bottom globally on this pillar. However, it still ranks in the top half globally on seven of the 12 pillars, with its strongest performances coming on infrastructure (2nd best in the region) and labour market efficiency. It also does well on technological readiness (71st, although low performing second in regional comparison).

Kenya. After two years of forward movement in the Index, Kenya slips nine places to 99th with regressions on three pillars in particular: goods market efficiency, financial market development and institutions. Corruption remains the top concern about doing business in the country, according to executives who took part in a survey which forms part of the Index calculations. Despite the decline, financial market development remains one of Kenya’s three strongest pillars, along with innovation and labour market efficiency; its weakest are the macroeconomic environment and, despite a small improvement in the last year, health and primary education.

Gabon. Improving slightly to 103rd overall, Gabon’s main strength is its macroeconomic environment, which is rated among the world’s top 20 thanks to a positive budget balance and low levels of government debt, reflective of its resource-driven economy. However, this is the only pillar on which Gabon ranks in the top half globally, and it ranks among the world’s bottom 20 on four pillars: goods market efficiency, higher education and training, business sophistication and innovation. To diversify its economy, it needs to invest in productivity-enhancing reforms across the board.


The Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 is available here