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The Triptych of territorial development in Africa : Economy, Digital, and Population well-being - EDP

mercredi 7 février 2024

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By Mounir ROCHDI

Today, when we would like to develop a territory, the traditional method consists of identifying the resources available within it. In other words, what is currently available in the territory that could be used for rapid development. This classical approach mainly focuses on natural resources that could be used, such as oil, natural gas, beaches, mountains, arable land, minerals, etc. This type of approach can be considered as ’Mono-sustainable development’. Indeed, relying on a single natural resource represents a significant long-term risk to development if it is not properly managed. Moreover, this dependency can limit the creativity and innovation capacities of the territory. If we add the environmental dimension, this mono approach is no longer sustainable. Inclusive and sustainable development must rely on a comprehensive approach, both economically, socially, and environmentally.

1. Mono-sustainable development approach

After identifying the resources of the territory, two options are possible : the territory is populated or it is not. Let’s assume that the territory is populated and rich in oil or natural gas. The revenues generated by these products will often and rapidly be invested in the construction of office buildings, high-end residential buildings, or large ring roads around the city. These revenues will also raise the level of salaries in the territory and attract international expertise. One of the consequences will be the increase in the cost of living for local populations. A perfect example representing this approach of mono-sustainable development based on oil is Nigeria. This country has become the Qatar of West Africa in terms of oil income. However, this wealth has only worsened the disparities in the country between the poor and the rich. According to the World Poverty Clock research institute, more than 44% of the 180 million inhabitants live on less than $2 a day. Every minute that passes, six Nigerians fall into extreme poverty. While Nigeria is the largest producer of black gold in Africa, with about 2 million barrels exported every day.

A second example of Mono-Sustainable Development is based on tourism. Capo Verde, an archipelago off the coast of Senegal, has been betting on tourism for several years to develop its economy and reduce poverty. It has indeed displayed one of the best progressions in poverty reduction for the past twenty years. However, this development has been at the expense of environmental protection and does not benefit all territories of the archipelago. Nearly 90% of tourists take "all-inclusive" stays in luxurious hotels, and more than half of them land on the sole island of Sal. All these tourists are entitled to one plastic bottle of drinking water per day. Indeed, problems with drinking water on the island require hotels to provide their visitors with bottled water. The result is a large amount of plastic waste that needs to be collected, treated, and recycled. Aware of this problem, Capo Verde is trying to develop other more responsible tourism approaches.

The two examples listed above, are unfortunately not an exception. The missing element in these two cases is anticipation. Just because a territory has oil or tourism assets does not mean that one should jump at the opportunity and develop at full speed. The consequences of the chosen development approach in the long term must be studied to ensure its economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

Territorial development is sometimes done hastily because the first expected return on investment is job creation. This new labor market helps drive local economy, generate tax revenues, and provide incomes to families.

A territory must be populated to accompany its development. Construction and development projects are thus undertaken to build schools, hospitals, roads, places of worship, and leisure facilities. But often the big losers in this approach are public transportation, thus forcing the population wishing to settle there to own a car. Territorial discrimination would thus begin even before the territory is populated, creating disparities related to transportation and mobility from the outset. This is the result of a Mono-Sustainable Development approach.

2. Creating Opportunities for Territorial Development

It is therefore necessary to adopt a new, more sustainable approach to territorial development that takes into account economic, cultural, environmental, and human aspects. This approach will even apply to territories that do not benefit from natural resources. This last point is perfectly illustrated in Mauritius. This small island territory of 1.3 million inhabitants has become a reference in terms of IT developments. While all indices pointed towards a development mainly focused on the tourist attractiveness of this island, the authorities created a new development opportunity focused on IT outsourcing. This strategy, implemented over several years, now allows Mauritius to attract large-scale IT projects.

Another example is Turkey, which has become a global center for hair transplants with a turnover of over one billion dollars in 2019, according to the Turkish Council of International Relations (DEIK). This figure is expected to exceed 50 billion dollars by 2028, according to a study by Data Bridge Market Research. The country has implemented a strategy to position itself in the global medical tourism market for hair transplants.

A final example is the aerospace and automotive sectors in Morocco. The kingdom now occupies a major place in both sectors. In 20 years, 140 companies specializing in the aerospace sector have set up in Morocco, creating 16,700 direct jobs.

The objective of these development strategies is economic diversification to no longer depend solely on natural resources. Oil or gas prices can drastically drop. These products can simply run out as well. Paradise landscapes can fall victim to violent storms or tsunamis, and mineral resources are not limitless either. To better support the development of a territory and no longer rely on a mono-sustainable development approach, a triptych approach focused on Economy, Digital, and primarily on the well-being of the Population would be necessary.

3. The Triptych Approach EDP for Territorial Development

Economy, Digital, and Population Well-being (EDP) represent a necessary triptych for inclusive and sustainable territorial development.

3.1. Population Well-being
In a territory, each citizen has basic needs such as health, education, employment, and security. These represent the primary needs of every citizen in the world.

a) Health
Operational hospitals, professional and available healthcare staff, efficient emergency services, availability of medical equipment, good hospital care, and the possibility of accessing quality care represent a vital need for every citizen. Each citizen wants to ensure that health authorities will take care of him/her when needed. This need is proportional to the risk they face. The more a citizen is in a situation of high health emergency, the higher their satisfaction level will be with rapid and effective care.
A first step towards improvement has already been taken in some African countries with the implementation of universal health coverage. Efforts must now continue both in terms of material resources, training and access to care.

b) Education
A rigorous public school, a motivated and committed teaching staff, an education program to develop the employability of young people and facilitate their professional integration, future-oriented training programs, and accessible education for all. Every citizen wants their children to benefit from education that will better prepare them for their futures.

In several African countries, private education has taken precedence over public education, becoming essential even for modest scholarships. This goes against equal opportunities regardless of the child’s brilliance level. Indeed, intelligence is not proportional to material wealth. But the latter can reinforce the former when the former is present.
According to UNESCO, the African continent has recorded an average primary school enrollment rate of 80%. This rate is the highest in decades. However, according to the African Union, this rapid increase in enrollments masks huge disparities and dysfunctions in the education system. Nearly 1 in 5 children of primary school age is still not in school.

Ayodele Odusola, the editor of the report titled "Income Inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa : Divergent Trends, Determinants, and Consequences" (1) and Chief Economist at UNDP, stated : "Quality education is essential for social mobility and can therefore contribute to poverty reduction, even if it does not necessarily reduce income inequalities."

c) Employment
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), African youth remain the most affected group by unemployment worldwide. One-third of the 420 million African youth aged 15 to 35 are unemployed. Among them, 35% have precarious employment, and 19% are inactive. Additionally, in many African countries, the majority of the 82% of workers already concentrated in the informal sector are considered working poor, representing a double burden in employment. This is compounded by gender inequalities and discrimination. The key to employment in a region lies in the employability of its population to match the current and future demands of the labor market.

d) Security
It’s not just about physical security in the strict sense of the term, but rather about a more comprehensive security, that famous sense of security. Every citizen wishes to move around peacefully, go out calmly, sleep soundly, work sustainably, and rely on public services when needed. Beyond the fear it may generate, the feeling of insecurity has both social and economic impacts. A region plagued by insecurity will not foster investments, population growth, innovation, or competitiveness.

The well-being of the population is aptly illustrated by the "Global Liveability Index," compiled annually by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU), the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, which owns the journal of the same name. This annual index ranks cities where it is good to live. For its 2023 edition, The EIU scrutinized 172 cities worldwide based on economic, social, environmental, health, and cultural criteria.

In the 2023 index, contrary to what one might believe, only two cities from the European Union are in the top 10. Vienna (Austria) indeed clinches the first place, with Copenhagen (Denmark) closely following in second place.

Australia, Canada, and Switzerland emerge as the big winners of this ranking since all three countries have multiple cities in the top 10. For Australia, we czn find Melbourne in 3rd place, Sydney in 4th ; For Canada, there are Vancouver in 5th place, Calgary in 7th, and Toronto in 9th ; For Switzerland, Zurich takes 6th place, and Geneva 7th. The notable absence from this top 10 is the United States of America.

As for African countries, they all find themselves far down in the rankings. What’s worse, five African countries are in the top 10 of the worst cities in the world.

To understand this poor ranking of African countries, one must analyze the methodology used by The EIU to conduct its study.

Here is the translation of the criteria and indicators used in each category :

Category 1 : Stability (25% of the score)
Indicators used and their source :
- Prevalence of petty crime (EIU index)
- Prevalence of violent crime (EIU index)
- Terrorist threat (EIU index)
- Threat of military conflict (EIU index)
- Threat of civil unrest or conflict (EIU index)

Category 2 : Healthcare (20% of the score)
Indicators used and their source :
- Availability of private healthcare (EIU index)
- Quality of private healthcare (EIU index)
- Availability of public healthcare (EIU index)
- Quality of public healthcare (EIU index)
- Availability of over-the-counter medications (EIU index)
- General health indicators (adapted from the World Bank)

Category 3 : Culture and Environment (25% of the score)
Indicators used and their source :
- Humidity/Temperature (Index adapted from average weather conditions)
- Climate discomfort for travelers (EIU index)
- Level of corruption (adapted from Transparency International)
- Social or religious restrictions (EIU index)
- Level of censorship (EIU index)
- Sporting availability - infrastructure and activities - (EIU index based on 3 sports indicators)
- Cultural availability - infrastructure and activities - (EIU index based on 4 cultural indicators)
- Food and beverages (EIU index based on 4 cultural indicators)
- Consumer goods and services (EIU index based on product availability)

Category 4 : Education (10% of the score)
Indicators used and their source :
- Availability of private education (EIU index)
- Quality of private education (EIU index)
- Indicators on public education (adapted from the World Bank)

Category 5 : Infrastructure (20% of the score)
Indicators used and their source :
- Quality of road network (EIU index)
- Quality of public transportation (EIU index)
- Quality of international connections (EIU index)
- Availability of good-quality housing (EIU index)
- Quality of energy supply (EIU index)
- Quality of water supply (EIU index)
- Quality of telecommunications (EIU index)

Even though most African countries are known for their temperate climates, pleasant living conditions, and the African population is recognized for its legendary hospitality and welcome, what pushes African cities down in the Global Liveability Index 2023 rankings are primarily the lack of sustainable infrastructure, deficient healthcare systems, and outdated and overburdened education systems.

This brings us back to the necessity of ensuring the basic needs of citizens within the framework of the triple EDP approach for developing a territory.

3.2 The Economic Dimension
Regional economic development requires real synergy among various territorial actors : the state, local authorities, businesses, civil associations, universities, etc. An approach based on Collective Intelligence is needed to view the territory as a whole, including the regional, national, and even international levels.

The first action to undertake is to conduct a territorial audit to establish a diagnosis and develop recommendations. This audit will answer questions about resources, opportunities, human capital and training, health, citizen services, infrastructure, and well-being. These questions naturally depend on each territory and are interconnected. They should also be subject to benchmark with other territories.

Resources : What resources do we have ? Natural or other. Are they exploitable ? Do we have the necessary conditions to exploit them ? What are the long-term environmental, social, and economic impacts ? What are the local, regional, national, and international impacts ?

Opportunities : Beyond the resources the territory may or may not have, are there opportunities to be developed ? Could the territory position itself in a particular future sector ? How can we position ourselves in the global value chain ? What investment attraction can be implemented for the territory ?

Human capital and training : What types of population inhabit the territory (active, inactive, youth, gender, etc.) ? What are the qualifications of the current population ? What training is provided in the territory and what are the returns on investment ? Should new training courses be introduced ? What is the mobility of the population and the reasons for it (population growth, desertification, job search) ?

Health : What healthcare system is currently available in the territory ? Does it meet the needs of the current population ? What types of diseases do we have in the territory (seasonal, chronic) ? What is the health status of the population ? What is the impact of the environment on health ?

Citizen services : Do the services provided to citizens meet their needs ? Are there new services to be implemented ? Should the way services are provided be modified ?

Infrastructure : What infrastructure do we have (roads, airport, industrial facilities, tourism facilities, healthcare, educational, housing, leisure, etc.) ? What is their condition ? Does the territory have a policy that promotes public transportation ? What are the new needs ? How can we anticipate the saturation of current infrastructure ?

Well-being : Does the population have the primary structures for its well-being ? (Hospital, school, green space, cinema, cultural activities, associations, shops, libraries, places of worship, etc.) Are these structures accessible and sustainable ? Is the security level of the population optimal ? Are the police, emergency, and fire services fully operational ? How can we improve the well-being of the population ?

The economic development of a territory inevitably highlights that of employment. But more than employment itself, employability is a major asset in the territorial development. The latter is not rich only because of its economy but above all because of its population. To illustrate the reality of this wealth, one only needs to see the state of territories, formerly mining, that have experienced the closure of their mines. Depending mainly on the income from their mines, which also employed the majority of the territory’s population, these regions found themselves deserted overnight after the mines closed.

A territory must take into account the necessary alignment between training and the labor market, including its evolution. This last point will be well illustrated at the level of the Digital dimension.

3.3. Digital transition
The digital transformation of territories represents a real opportunity to catch up with underdevelopment in terms of basic infrastructure and services. Access to the internet should now be considered a human right. Access to education, health, culture, administrative services, or e-commerce can now be done online.

The digital world also represents a real economic development lever. This new economy generates high added value and creates new jobs. The digital world also allows the development of startups and new technologies.

Africa has shown strong growth in the digital sector in recent years. In 2019, more than 250 million people were connected to the internet. The development of 5G and fiber optics is underway in several African countries, despite significant disparities.

Digital tools are transforming public services and the way governments respond to citizens’ needs. Many territories have actively engaged in a process of digital transformation of government services. However, territories face numerous challenges in digital transformation processes, including rethinking governance, allocating resources for retraining and adopting new technologies, as well as legislative and political issues. Simply launching a digital service is not enough to meet the needs of citizens. It is necessary to understand citizen usage and experience so that the digital service can adapt to their habits. It is not up to the citizen to adapt to the digital service ; it is the other way around.

The African citizen is looking for more transparency, responsiveness, and simplicity in the public services to which they have access. A digital service must therefore respond to these three expectations in addition to effectively ensuring the delivery of the initial service need. Otherwise, the service will not be used and will only reinforce citizens’ frustration with public services.
With 4.2 billion African inhabitants projected for 2100 according to the UN and the planet Earth not being expandable, Africa is obliged to adapt its territories to this strong demographic constraint and ensure the well-being of its population. This could also be achieved through smart cities. This is certainly the objective of the approach of the city of Kigali in Rwanda.

The Rwandan capital has undertaken initiatives to become smarter.

Transportation : In 2021, the city launched, in collaboration with the company GURARIDE, a smart public transport system using bikes, scooters, and electric bicycles for self-service. A system called ’Tap & Go’ allowed the dematerialization of all bus trip payments through a rechargeable payment card at all bus stops. This system enabled local authorities to collect information on the number of people using public transportation and the number of trips they make per day. The analysis of this collected data helps improve queue management for ticket payments and speeds up boarding buses.

Waste management : In 2021, Kigali introduced a Smart Waste Management Strategy to collect data on waste production, collection, and treatment. For example, the old trash cans in the Rwandan capital have been replaced with smart bins equipped with sensors. This equipment allows real-time monitoring of waste fill levels to regulate waste collection in the field.

Public lighting : The city has undertaken smart public lighting projects to improve safety in streets and neighborhoods. Lampposts equipped with sensors automatically adjust lighting based on ambient brightness.

Health : In February 2023, the government deployed drones to deliver medication to diabetics living in remote areas.

The territory is a complex entity that needs to be analyzed, understood, and supported. Located within a national environment but operating in an international context, it must constantly reposition itself, readjust, and anticipate its future. This agility will rely on the EDP triptych of Economy, Digital, and Population Well-being, whose dimensions are fully intertwined and cannot be implemented without a collective approach that takes into account the triptych as a whole.