African Economic Conference Ends as Economic Challenges Mount
Tunis, 14 November 2008 – The 2008 African Economic Conference (AEC) wound up on Friday, November 14, 2008, in Tunis after vast intellectual exchanges dominated by the prevailing global financial crisis, which, the conferees acknowledged, must be factored into ideas and programmes to protect recent economic gains and achieve future targets.
Organized in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission on the theme "Globalisation, Institutions and Economic Development of Africa", some 500 government officials, representatives of multilateral finance institutions, academics and researchers brainstormed on issues impeding development in many African countries and how to tackle them.
The prevailing financial crisis topped the agenda of the AEC as finance ministers and central bank governors converged on Tunis for a day-long conference which focused attention on how African countries should confront the emerging threat.
The financial crisis is seen as an impediment, coming at a time when African economies were turning the corner, forcing governments to delay or scale back projects to stimulate growth and fight poverty.
In the past decade, many African countries have been focusing economic policies to attract private investment, but turmoil on world markets has cut the supply of money as the world's biggest banks shift funds from new projects to shoring up balance sheets.
African Development Bank Group Research Director, Leonce Ndikumana, said "The information we are getting on the ground is that promised funding is declining."
Mr. Ndikumana said there was growing pressure for loans from African banks to make up the lack of foreign financing and those banks had begun seeking assistance as they were unable to find enough resources. More African states have turned to Western banks in recent years to help build ports and bring power to their populations.
"This crisis could not have come at a worse time for the African continent; it constitutes a major setback at a time when African economies are turning the corner," AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, said.
Delegates from Zambia, Uganda and other countries reported that investors were selling securities and pushing down local currencies.
Given the scenario, experts at the conference were of the view that the credit crisis could erode efforts to reduce poverty in the Bank’s Regional Member Countries (RMCs)
Thereafter, the discussions returned to programmed issues such as discussions on Migration and Remittances, Public-Private Role in Institution Building, Financial Development and Growth, Climate Change, Microfinance, Trade, Rural Development and African Integration, among others.
AfDB Chief Economist, Louis Kasekende, noted that the annual event initiated three years ago was a success and it is smoothly emerging as a forum for enhancing African capacity and promoting knowledge management as an important component of good policy design and implementation on African development issues.
It is an opportunity for regional and sub-regional organizations to disseminate their research findings and share information with African policy-makers regarding their work in the region. He urged the formation of national economic associations as a nucleus of an African Economics Association.
Mr. Kassekende said the next AEC would take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2009