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Regional Cooperation in Africa

Many of the challenges faced by numerous African countries – such as armed conflict, climate change, migration and trade barriers – affect several countries at the same time. Therefore, Sida supports regional actors that contribute to cooperation between countries and promote sustainable development on the African continent.

Sida's regional support to Africa 2020

Progress has been made

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million new electrical connections have been established in Sub-Saharan Africa every year since 2000. Investments in renewable energy, especially solar energy, are increasing.

Strong economic growth

Several countries have experienced strong economic growth in recent years. Initiatives from the African Union (AU) and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have increased the opportunities for countries to coordinate their economic policies and facilitated trade.

Important steps towards democracy

A number of countries have taken important steps in becoming more democratic. Authoritarian regimes have fallen in several countries, including the Gambia. In Sudan, peaceful protests in 2019 led to a transition from dictatorship to civilian rule.

Challenges remain

Economic and environmental vulnerability

According to OECD, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region of the world where economic and environmental vulnerability is at its worst.

COVID-19 pandemic is reducing growth

Despite a period of economic growth, poverty is declining slowly, due in part to the uneven distribution of resources and rapid population growth. The COVID-19 pandemic will radically reduce growth in 2020.

Violations of human rights

Respect for human rights varies between countries. However, compared to other parts of the world, the African continent generally ranks low. Violations of human rights in armed conflicts and in the context of refugee crises are particularly common.

Regional development cooperation in Africa

The African continent has more than 1.3 billion inhabitants, and people’s living conditions and challenges differ between regions and countries, and within countries. Many countries face common and cross-border challenges. In addition to armed conflict and climate change, examples include the management of natural resources, trade barriers, migration and a lack of respect for human rights.

Climate, resilience and renewable energy

Africa is home to a large portion of the world’s natural resources. Climate change is hitting the continent hard and is increasing pressure on natural resources, which are crucial to people’s livelihoods. Moreover, resources account for an important part of the continent’s exports and are a decisive factor in many conflicts. 

Two out of three people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, due in part to a lack of investment and limited cooperation between countries.

Reducing climate impact

Over 50 African countries have signed the Paris Agreement and its climate commitments. Many organisations in the region also have lofty ambitions in the field of climate change, but the lack of funding is a challenge. The African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) works to ensure that countries implement national climate plans and reduce their climate impact.

About ACPC at the ECA website

Resilience to natural disasters

The Horn of Africa is regularly hit by severe drought, which threatens people’s livelihoods, health and lives, as well as countries’ economic development. The IGAD Drought Disaster and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI) works to enable countries and communities to build a better resilience to natural disasters and climate change.

The IGAD website

Democracy, gender equality, and political and human rights

The democratic development of the region has seen both progress and setbacks. Corruption is rampant and many people have their rights violated. Certain countries have undergone peaceful shifts in power, while others have restricted people’s rights through constitutional amendments.

Surveys about democracy and political governance

Ninety-one percent of the region’s population lives in countries deemed “non-free” or “partly free” by the organisation Freedom House, which measures democratic rights in countries throughout the world. Sida supports Afrobarometer, which maps people’s experiences of democracy and political governance in 37 African countries. The surveys help to make citizens’ views and priorities visible and can be used as a basis for political decision-making.

The Afrobarometer website

Protecting children's rights

Africa has a very young population – around half of its people are under 19 years of age. Children are particularly affected by poverty and conflict. The African Union’s Committee on the Rights of the Child collaborates with various children’s rights organisations to strengthen the protection of children’s rights in areas such as armed conflict, early marriage and the right to education.

About the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the AU website

Economic integration, employment and migration

Economic growth has not led to a corresponding increase in employment. Unemployment and underemployment are major challenges. Migration has also increased as a result of the lack of socio-economic opportunities, political instability, armed conflict, violent extremism and climate change.

Great efforts are being made to strengthen the regional market in Africa, but different countries have reached different stages in the process.

Promoting employment among young people

Africa’s able-bodied population is projected to grow by nearly 40 percent by 2030. Major reforms are needed to create a sustainable labour market and opportunities for people to earn a living. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is working to increase funding opportunities for SMEs, thus increasing employment among young people. 

The AfDB website

Modernising customs administrations

Expensive fees and complicated regulations prevent countries in Africa from trading with each other and with the rest of the world. Through the World Customs Organisation (WCO), Sida is contributing to modernise customs administrations and supports the countries of the region in implementing the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which aims to simplify trade around the world. In cooperation with Lund University, the Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (trapca) educates students from Sub-Saharan Africa in trade policy and commercial law, in order to increase expertise about trade issues. 

Improving labour migration

Migrants often find it more difficult to obtain work permits and jobs and encounter worse conditions in the labour market. The African Union’s Joint Labour Migration Programme (JLMP) develops policies aimed at improving labour migration on the continent.

About JLMP at the AU website

Human security and freedom from violence

Armed conflicts are happening in various parts of Africa, and some of them have been going on for decades. Peace processes in the Horn of Africa are fragile, and in northern Mozambique and the Sahel region (which includes parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan) violent extremism is gaining ground.

Preventing conflicts

In many countries, the capacity for mediation, conflict management and peace-building is low. Sida supports the African Union and regional institutions such as Ecowas, SADC and EAC in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.

Counteracting violent extremism

The security situation in Sahel has deteriorated sharply in recent years. Sida supports the UN, civil society organisations and national authorities in addressing the root causes of the conflicts and counteracting violent extremism.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights

Maternal mortality decreased by nearly 40 percent between 2000-2017, according to UNICEF data. The number of children infected with HIV has also declined. 

However, in many countries abortion rights are under threat and the situation of LGBTQI rights has worsened. Gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS, the lack of comprehensive sexuality education and insufficient access to care are major problems that affect both individuals and the region’s development in general. The COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying these challenges.

Contraceptives and medical abortions

Residents of the region often have poor access to contraception, prenatal care and safe abortions. The organisations Population Services International (PSI) and DKT International offer contraceptives and medical abortions in 11 African countries. Together with Unesco, Sida also provides comprehensive sexuality education to 20 million pupils in the region.

Preventing female genital mutilation

More than 200 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to genital mutilation, according to data from WHO, and the vast majority of them live in Africa. Via UNFPA and UNICEF, Sida supports the world’s largest anti-genital mutilation programme, in which work to address social norms about gender equality plays an important role. The programme covers 16 African countries and its preventative work reaches millions of girls, who receive protection and access to healthcare.

Updated: 7 September 2021