Making policies work


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African Economic Outlook (AEO) 2015 Experts’ Meeting “Spatial Inclusion in Africa”

6 November 2014
7 November 2014

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The AEO is an annual report produced by the AfDB, the OECD Development Centre and the UNDP. The 2014 edition is fully accessible at

For the special theme of the report’s 2015 edition, “Spatial inclusion in Africa”, AEO partners are working in close collaboration with CIRAD.

Africa’s remarkable economic rise over the last decade may have diverted attention away from a silent yet arguably even more profound change: the continent’s demographic boom. Beyond its magnitude, this boom is unique in terms of its spatial dynamics: Africans living in the countryside, not city dwellers, will remain the majority until the 2030s, and their number will continue to grow well after 2050. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, the rural population will increase by 57% over the next 40 years, representing an addition of 310 million people. And Africa’s new rural dwellers are not only growing in numbers; their patterns of living, working and travelling are changing rapidly. Stark improvements in transportation and telecommunications, the emergence of new medium-sized urban centres and the gradual rise in living standards all create new opportunities for economic diversification in rural areas where traditional agricultural activities are increasingly blended with handicraft, trade, transportation or processing and new activities such as ITC based services. Likewise households see their members increasingly involved in a variety of farm and non-farm activities, some of them commuting between urban and rural locations.

Yet these major changes have not been enough to produce any significant overall improvement in living standards by themselves, which questions the adequacy of existing public policies. In addition, the new emerging demographic and territorial realities are not easily grasped by available conceptual and statistical tools, as they defy the traditional divides between “urban” and “rural”, “farm” and “non-farm” households when most rural households have diversified sources of income. If economic policies remain blind to Africa’s fast changing territorial realities, they may fail to effectively implement the continent’s agenda of structural transformation, poverty alleviation and sound management of natural assets. National policymakers, city planners, infrastructure builders, local governments, investors, farmers’ associations, environmentalists and other stakeholders need to work together and find new ways to face those challenges. Public policies need to escape their sectoral pattern. Can new territorial management policies help African economies make the most of the demographic dividend in a sustainable manner? Can they provide new impetus to policies in the areas of private sector development, infrastructure, decentralisation and human capital formation?

To try and answer those questions, the meeting will gather specialists of economic geography, territorial and regional development, spatial planning, prospective and forecasting with experience on Africa and other regions of the world.


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