Regional Cooperation in Africa
Armed conflict, climate change, migration and trade barriers are challenges for many countries in Africa. Sida therefore contributes to cooperation between countries and organisations working for sustainable development in the region.
Sida's regional support in Africa 2021
Progress has been made
Producing more medicines
Africa has the world’s fastest growing pharmaceutical industry. Regional organisations estimate that local production of pharmaceuticals will increase from 1 to 60 percent by 2040.1
Hope for reduced trade barriers
The African Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has received increased recognition and new investment. It is hoped that the agreement will reduce red tape, corruption and other barriers to trade within the region.
Fewer children contracting HIV
Mother-to-child transmission of HIV has declined dramatically.2 In December 2021, Botswana became the first country with an ongoing severe AIDS epidemic to successfully stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Lack of electricity and clean cooking methods
More than 600 million people lack access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa alone. The share of renewable energy is generally low. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 900 million people lack access to clean fuel and efficient stoves.3
Increasing debt burden
Many people are financially vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very negative impact on many countries in the region. National savings have fallen, as has foreign investment. Debt burdens have risen sharply.4
Peace, security and democracy in decline
Military coups in Guinea, Chad, Mali, Sudan and Burkina Faso, as well as violence and terrorism in Ethiopia and Somalia, among others, have put the continent on the back foot, although the African Union Peace Fund is a step forward. Democracy is also going backwards. The number of countries without democracy rose from 14 to 20 between 2008 and 2021.5
Regional development cooperation in Africa
The African continent has around 1.4 billion inhabitants.6 People’s living conditions and challenges differ between regions, countries and even within countries. Many of the countries face common and transnational challenges such as armed conflict, climate change, natural resource management, trade barriers, increasing migration and lack of respect for human rights.
Climate, resilience and renewable energy
Africa is home to a large percentage of the world’s natural resources. Climate change is hitting the region hard with droughts, extreme weather, disease, pests and biodiversity loss. Climate change and competition for natural resources are also contributing to hunger, conflict and increasing numbers of refugees.7
Access to electricity is inadequate. This is partly due to a lack of investment and limited cooperation between countries.
Better implementation of countries' climate plans
Over 50 African countries have signed the Paris Agreement and its climate commitments. Many organisations in the region also have high climate ambitions, but lack of funding is a problem. The African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) works to help countries implement national climate plans and reduce their climate impact. They are also increasing the involvement of young people in climate issues. Ahead of the COP26 climate summit, young lawyers received training on climate change.
Improving resilience to climate change
The Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia) is regularly hit by severe drought, which threatens people’s livelihoods, health and lives, as well as their economic development. The IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI) is working steadily to help countries and communities build resilience to natural disasters and climate change.
There is a great need for investment in fossil-free energy in Africa. Sida is providing several grants to contribute to the transition to renewable energy. One example is the UN Green Fund, which offers preferential loans to invest in renewables. The support has so far provided renewable energy to some 600 000 people in 14 countries.
Democracy, gender equality, and human rights
Democratic development is backsliding after a decade of progress. Military coups, Internet shutdowns, electoral fraud and election monitoring have increased.8 Corruption is widespread and many people have their rights violated. Freedom of expression was restricted in some 30 countries during the pandemic.9 Gender-based violence is common, including female genital mutilation and sexual assault.
Raising Africans' views on democracy
What do people in African countries think about democracy, gender equality and globalisation? How do they experience poverty in their country? Through on-the-spot interviews, the Afrobarometer provides insights into what people in some 40 African countries think and feel about key social issues. The long-term ambition is to give a voice to people from all countries on the continent. The reports are used by the media, opinion leaders and policy makers, among others. Sida has supported Afrobarometer since 1999.
Increasing security for human rights defenders
Civil society organisations are important in human rights work. Civil society and regional courts complement each other in holding states accountable when human rights are violated. Sida supports the international network CIVICUS, which helps to strengthen civil society organisations. Among other things, the support has led to increased knowledge of digital and physical security among human rights activists. Civil society activism has largely moved to online platforms, partly due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Strengthening the protection of children's rights
Africa’s young population is large and growing rapidly; it is expected to double by 2050. Children are particularly hard hit by poverty and conflict.10 Sida supports the African Union Committee on the Rights of the Child, which works with various children’s rights organisations to strengthen legal protections for children in areas such as armed conflict, early marriage and the right to education.
Economic development for all
The pandemic, with its increased border controls and restrictions, has affected trade, tourism and economic development as a whole. Women and young people have been particularly hard hit by the downturn, as they tend to work in the informal economy in precarious conditions. The gap between rich and poor is widening in most countries.
The process of linking the whole of Africa in a trade agreement continues apace. Various initiatives are also underway to increase production within the continent. This is important to create more jobs and reduce dependence on imports of essential goods such as medicines and food.
Increasing job opportunities for young people
Unemployment and underemployment are major challenges and the working age population is increasing. Comprehensive reforms are needed to create a sustainable labour market and opportunities for people to earn a living. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is increasing access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to boost youth employment.
Strengthening regional and international trade
Expensive tariffs and complex regulations make it difficult for countries in Africa to trade with each other and with the rest of the world. Through the World Customs Organisation (WCO), Sida is helping to modernise customs administration and implement the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, which aims to simplify trade for countries in the region. In cooperation with Lund University, the Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (trapca) trains students from Africa in trade policy. The Trade Law Centre (tralac) runs a programme to empower and facilitate trade for young women decision-makers and women involved in small-scale border trade.
Supporting women entrepreneurs
The pandemic has continued to make it harder for businesses to hire. Tourism, transport and retail in sub-Saharan Africa have been particularly hard hit. Sida is supporting the African Development Bank (AfDB) in supporting women-led small and medium-sized enterprises. One example is the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative.
Migration and development
Closed borders have affected migration and increased risks for migrants. Climate change is making extreme drought and rainfall more common. This affects the livelihoods of people who are forced to leave their homes.
More sustainable labour migration
Migrants often face greater difficulties in obtaining work permits and jobs and poorer conditions in the labour market. Sida supports the African Union’s Joint Labour Migration Programme (JLMP), which develops policies for labour migration on the continent, among other things. The aim is to improve the systems that regulate labour migration by, among other things, taking into account gender equality and relevant international human rights and labour standards. The African Union is also running a project to improve the management of migration data, in cooperation with the Statistics Sweden (SCB).
Easier to send money
Sida supports several programmes and projects to improve the situation of migrants. For example, we support the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), which, through a new ID system for financial services, makes it easier for migrants to send money digitally to their home countries.
Peaceful and inclusive societies
Armed conflicts are ongoing in various parts of Africa, many of which have been going on for decades. Peace processes in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia) are fragile and in northern Mozambique and the Sahel region (covering parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan) violent extremism is gaining ground.
Preventing and resolving conflicts
Many countries lack the resources to mediate, manage conflicts and build peace. Sida supports the African Union (AU) and regional institutions such as the Economic Community of West Development Community (SADC) in Southern Africa and the East African Community (EAC) in East Africa in their efforts to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts.
Supporting women and young people in peace processes
Women participate little in formal peace processes. Sida cooperates with ACCORD, which guarantees the participation of women and young people in peace efforts in Mozambique. ACCORD also trains young peacebuilders in southern Africa in peace and conflict management and supports the peace process in Sudan.
Addressing the root causes of conflict
The security situation in the Sahel has deteriorated significantly in recent years. Sida supports the UN, civil society organisations and national authorities in addressing the root causes of conflict and countering violent extremism.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)
The situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is slowly improving in the region. Maternal mortality is declining, fewer young people are contracting HIV, access to sexuality education is increasing and the rate of unwanted pregnancies is falling.
At the same time, resistance is growing. It is better organised and more well-funded than in the past and focuses on removing the right to sex education, banning abortion and reducing the rights of LGBTQI people. The pandemic has reduced access to SRHR for young people and pregnant women and increased the risk of sexual and gender-based violence and child marriage. At the same time, the pandemic has contributed to increased solidarity and cooperation between countries on health issues.
The situation of LGBTI people has worsened in many parts of the region, with tentative progress in parts of Southern Africa. Mozambique, Botswana and Angola have abolished laws that previously criminalised same-sex relationships.
Better sex education and access to contraception
People in the region often have poor access to services such as contraception, maternal health and safe abortion. For example, Sida supports the UN’s 2gether 4 SRHR programme, which works, among other things, on legislation and policies to improve access to and increase SRHR services. UNESCO works with sexuality education in 31 countries to help increase gender equality and reduce teenage pregnancies, among other things. The SRHR Africa Trust (SAT) increases access to contraception for young people, including by investigating contraceptive stock-outs, and advocating for increased supply. Partnerships with DKT International and Population Services International (PSI) increase access to contraceptives and abortion supplies, which have so far prevented an estimated 2.5 million unwanted pregnancies in 26 countries.
Working against genital mutilation
Over 200 million girls and women in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have been subjected to female genital mutilation.11 The vast majority live in Africa. Sida supports the world’s largest programme against FGM through the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), where work on social norms around gender equality is an important part. The programme operates in 16 African countries and reaches millions of girls with prevention, protection and access to care.
Sources on this page
- Growing pharmaceutical production in Africa in the report Forsight Africa 2022 on the Brookings website
- Reducing HIV in children 0-9 years in Africa on UNICEF’s website
- Access to electricity and efficient stoves in sub-Saharan Africa on Sida’s website
- The economic situation in sub-Saharan Africa on IMF’s website
- Unfree countries on Freedom House’s website
- Population of Africa on Statista’s website
- Report on the climate of the African continent on the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) website
- Democratic development in Africa on Ideas’ website
- Restricted freedom of expression during the pandemic in Africa on Reliefweb
- Gender-based violence in Africa on Equality Now’s website
- Africa’s young population on the UNECA’s website
- Female genital mutilation in the world on the WHO website
Updated: October 4, 2022