African Economic Conference: Knowledge-Sharing Exercise

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A joint AfDB-UNECA press conference took place on Wednesday, November 11, 2009, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as part of activities of the African economic conference that is being held on the theme: “Fostering Development in an Era of Financial Economic and crises”.

Speaking during the press conference, the AfDB research division manager, Abdul Kamara, said Africa was expected to be insulated from the global financial crisis given that its economy had not been fully integrated into the global economy. But the reality is different today.

He said the impact of the global financial crisis on Africa manifested itself by way of declining demand for Africa’s commodities, falling tourism, and reversals in capital flows and remittances. The conference, he said, was an exercise for different parties to come together and share experiences and knowledge on how to deal with Africa’s economic development issues.

This year’s conference will be characterized by presentations by experts in key fields, he said, adding that 27 technical presentations on the capital flow crisis, poverty & inequality, foreign direct investment, fiscal and monetary policies, and the competitiveness of African countries in areas in which those countries have competitive advantages will also be made. High-level policy-makers, development practitioners and researchers will participate in breakout sessions to discuss and exchange perspectives on issues relevant to the continent’s development efforts.

Mr. Kamara and Mr. Ben Idrissa Ouedrago of the UNECA underscored the importance of the private sector in the continent’s economic development, adding that the private sector’s role had been recognized to such an extent that both the AfDB and ECA had units dedicated to the sector.

“Over the years we have recognized the role of the private sector,” Mr. Kamara said, “but to channel aid through the private sector, we have to be sure that the causes of the private sector are in line with our mandate - reducing poverty and creating jobs and economic opportunities.”

He said that Africa was, more than ever, aware of the need for economic diversity in order to be less vulnerable to crises. Since the financial crisis hit, the forecast for African development had been revised downward a number of times, he said, adding that “The crisis hit at a time when Africa was growing at 6%.” He pointed out that “When it happened, we hoped for a 3% growth, then that was down to 2%. For sub-Saharan Africa, the forecast is about 1.2%.”

Mr. Ouedrago, for his part, said, “The public sector should create an enabling environment so that the private sector could meaningfully contribute to development.”

Africa’s economic recovery, according to Mr. Kamara, will be dependent on two factors: how developed economies will recover and how that will translate into demand for African goods.

Written by Ayenew Haileselassie