AEC Paves way for Africa to Position Itself in the New Global Order to Achieve Long-Term Growth,” Says AfDB Chief Economist, Mthuli Ncube

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The 27-29 October 2010 African Economic Conference (AEC) jointly organized in Tunis by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Development Bank for Southern Africa (DBSA) on the theme “Setting the Agenda for Africa’s Economic Recovery and Long-Term Growth” will be significantly different from previous editions, AfDB’s Chief Economist and Vice-president, Mthuli Ncube said.

“I cannot agree with you more on the fact that the AEC is now on record as a landmark knowledge event on the continent. As a premier forum that is focused on development debate among policymakers, outstanding academics and development practitioners, the AEC is now fulfilling a role that is critical for informed policy and decision making in Africa,” Mr. Ncube said in an interview.

This is mainly illustrated by the increasing number of paper submissions, the number of organizers on board, as well as requests for participation.  “For the AfDB, this is welcome news. The diversity of African economies and the need for interaction and coordination of efforts leave a huge room for collaboration and effective partnerships,” he underscored. He explained that, this has been the spirit of the Bank’s  collaboration with the ECA which has been very successful  “The success of this collaboration has been marked by the successful rotation of the conference between Tunis and Addis Ababa, a model that is expected to be expanded soon to give others the opportunity to host the conference,” he pointed out.

On innovations in the 2010 AEC, the Chief Economist stressed that the format had significantly evolved over the years to enhance dialogue and knowledge exchange. “The structure of this year’s conference maximizes interactions among participants, which is greatly enhanced by the Round Table and “Davos Style” formats of key Plenary Sessions,” he said, adding that “A key innovation in the AEC has been the creation of a bridge between knowledge and policy making in Africa. The conference attendance thus comprises adequate representation from Regional Member Countries (RMCs)”. According to Mr. Ncube, “This mix of participants generates a rich and balanced debate that leads to practical policy recommendations, applicable to the circumstances of the different groups of African countries.”

The Chief Economist also highlighted the contribution of AEC’s deliberations to better position African countries in the new global order to achieve long-term growth. In that regard, he stressed the instrumental role the creation of the Committee of Ten (C-10) played in coordinating and building Africa’s voice within the international financial framework. “Africa’s quick rebound after the crisis is by no means a coincidence. The continent did so because it has changed and continues to change for the better,” he pinpointed, stressing that “More than ever, Africa is now in a better position for quick and informed policy and decision making.”

Mr. Ncube also shared his perspectives on the continent’s growth and affirmed that “With the quick rebound, it is critical that the continent shifts from overemphasizing stabilization to supporting growth that is strong, sustained and shared, and ensures job creation and poverty reduction.” Mr.Ncube however cautioned that Africa has a high post-crisis growth potential but uncertainties arising from the fragile global outlook call for a careful examination of policy options. “It is clear that the crisis took a heavy toll on African economies but the continent is braced to make a robust comeback. With the emerging global recovery, Africa has quickly set itself on a rebounding recovery track, once again ready to resume its growth momentum,” he said.

The Chief Economist highlighted the Bank’s recent Africa GDP growth projections at 4.5 percent in 2010 and 5.2 in 2011, making the continent one of the fastest growing developing regions. “Among key factors behind the continent’s resilience and quick recovery are counter-cyclical policies and timely financial support from the multilateral financial institutions, anchored on improved reforms and strong macroeconomic fundamentals that prevailed before the crisis,” he said. According to him, with recovery now fully underway, the challenge is to address the question of how the continent can return to a higher growth trajectory, sustain that growth and translate it into job creation, and subsequently poverty reduction. “By debating these questions and coming up with policy recommendations, the AEC is paving the way for Africa to position itself in the new global order to achieve long-term growth,” he added.

Also explaining the relevance of knowledge for AfDB’s operations, Mr. Ncube acknowledged that over the years, progress in knowledge generation has been significant, especially in getting operational staff more and more involved in knowledge generation activities, and getting them to use knowledge products in their operational work.  He believes that the best way to go is to “make knowledge everybody’s business” in the Bank.

The conference brings together representatives of international organisations, including the World Bank, IMF, WTO, IFPRI, FAO, UNICEF, IACO, UNDP and DBSA. Participants are also expected from eleven African Research Institutes, including: the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, the Ghana Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, Senegal’s applied economic research centre, and Botswana’s Institute for Development Policy Analysis.

The AEC now serves as a bridge between knowledge and policy-making in Africa.