Special edition: Unlocking Africa's potential through services trade and development

13 August 2012

This issue is published jointly with International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP), and brings together experts on trade in services to highlight a number of key challenges and opportunities facing the continent in deploying services trade to promote growth, sustainable development, and reduce poverty.

The services sector has become a key driver of growth and development, accounting for 71 percent of global GDP in 2010.  This parallels trends in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, where services contributed between 30-70 percent of GDP during the same time (World Development Indicators 2011). According to the ILO (2011), global employment in the sector surpassed that of agriculture in 2001 and the gap between the two has grown ever since.

With growth rates averaging five percent annually over the past decade, and expected to reach seven percent by 2015, Africa has become the second fastest growing continent (second only to Asia).  While oil, gas and mining are clear drivers, the services sector is also playing an essential role – including key infrastructure services such as transport, telecommunications, banking and insurance, alongside business services and distribution and retail.  With even more infrastructure investments in the pipeline, the view that Africa’s economic renaissance is just getting underway has become increasingly widespread.

Despite these positive trends, a range of challenges remain – notably the persistent poverty in many of the fastest growing African economies and the lack of access to employment and education, resulting in increased inequality (only Latin America is more inequitable).  Rising food and oil costs, contributing to increased food and energy insecurity, also serve to exacerbate poverty alleviation efforts. Furthermore, the extractive intensity of Africa’s growth carries significant environmental implications.

Leveraging the services sector not only assists in unlocking further growth potential, but it can also help to create jobs, improve the range and quality of services available, and increase the perceived returns to skills.

Bridges Africa is accepting nominations to join our editorial advisory board. For more information or if you would like to submit an article for review, please contact the managing editor Kiranne Guddoy at: kguddoy@ictsd.ch.

The Bridges Africa team

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