Better distribution of resources will reduce poverty and inequality in Africa

03/11/2015
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"If, despite efforts, poverty persists in Africa, this is due to an unequal distribution of resources." This was the point made by Abdoulaye Mar Dièye, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Director of the United Nations Development Programme Regional Bureau for Africa, on Monday, November 2 as he introduced the discussions of the first plenary meeting of the tenth edition of the African Economic Conference in Kinshasa.

The theme of the discussions was: "Reflections and prospects for addressing poverty and inequality in the post-2015 development agenda."

There is evidence on the ground for Dièye's statement: Africa is showing positive growth, despite the international economic crisis. However, this growth is not being translated into a significant decrease in poverty in the continent.

Carlos Lopes, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, one of the three presenters at this session, suggested that African countries should "aim for an average growth of 7% per annum for several years." He said that this growth should be driven by the solid industrialisation of the continent. "Industry creates wealth and jobs, leading to a consequent reduction in unemployment.” This is not necessarily the case for extractive industries, which create barely 1% of formal employment.

Lopes continued by defending the thesis that "Africa must produce its own development strategies and its own analyses of economic forecasts." By way of example, he cited the current fall in oil prices, which has not had the same impact in Africa as in other regions.

"The economies of African oil-producing countries have not suddenly collapsed, due to available currency reserves for a period going from one year to two," said Lopes. He explained how African oil-importing countries, on the other hand, are obtaining supplies at lower cost and have additional resources for investment in other sectors, which, he said, justifies the importance of the conference discussions.

Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa, Chief Economist and Vice-President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), welcomed the fact that Africa's development partners are no longer imposing programmes, but are opening dialogue. "This makes it possible to implement agreed programmes with controlled impacts for the people."

The Ethiopian model for the reduction of poverty and inequality was also widely discussed by participants.

Ethiopian Finance Minister Yinager Dessie said that Addis Ababa had made significant investments in agriculture and energy and in the creation of schools in rural areas, where 85% of the population live.

Rising incomes for farmers and wide-spread literacy have led to the creation of micro enterprises. This virtuous chain has reduced poverty, inequality and unemployment. "We did not begin by investing in cutting-edge technology, but in the sector that affects most of our population," stressed Minister Yinager Dessie. "Our country then attracted significant foreign direct investment. The Chinese, the Turks, the Italians, the French and even the Americans are investing in Ethiopia," he said with some pride.

The Ethiopian model makes it possible to reduce the paradox between "Africa's potential and its reality,” concluded session moderator Abdoulaye Mar Dièye.

AfDB’s Kayizzi-Mugerwa, meanwhile, suggested an increase of about 1%, in the African tax burden, which, he said, would raise more than the current level of official development assistance, which is slowing.