Economic growth in Africa: Leaving no one behind

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Economic growth has been a reality in Africa for more than a decade. It is even sustainable in certain countries, especially in East and West Africa. However, it does not yet include everyone. In order to fully embody its role as an engine for development in Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB) aims to include all social classes on the road to growth. This was the theme of a panel discussion, "Economic Growth in Africa: Leaving No One Behind", held on the opening day of the AfDB's 2015 Annual Meetings in Abidjan.

In addition to being the forum to formally launch the AfDB's Annual Report, the Annual Meetings are an opportunity for a thorough review of growth on the continent. The assessment is clear and widely shared: Africa has continued to see its economic growth rate rise since the adoption in 2000 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, the AfDB concedes, "More needs to be done to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce inequality on the content". This is where an obstacle can be found to the progress that Africa has achieved in terms of growth.

Like the other panelists at the discussion, Abebe Shimeles, Acting Director of the AfDB’s Development Research Department, did not overlook the fact that "Africa has seen less progress in poverty reduction" compared to countries in South Asia and the Eastern Pacific. Similarly, he added, "A considerable number of African countries still have poverty levels that are close to 50% of the population".

Since inclusiveness is not a value shared equally in Africa's march towards development, the AfDB, along with its partners, aims to set things right. The panel discussed the various experiences of countries like South Africa, Uganda and Côte d'Ivoire in promoting sustainable and fair development, especially in terms of gender.

Nialé Kaba, the Ivorian Minister of the Economy and Finance; Louis Kasenkende, Vice-Governor of the Central Bank of Uganda; and Nhlanhla Nene, the South African Minister of Finances, spoke of the progress that each of their countries had made while highlighting the work still to be done in achieving the MDGs.

As well as condemning territorial and gender inequalities, the 2015 edition of the African Development Report, to be released in September, gives reason for optimism. In order for this optimism to translate into real progress on the ground, it stresses the need to focus on education, job creation, women's independence, etc. This is especially true because ending poverty "requires a fairer society and more diverse economy, which generates work for the majority of the population", recalled Shimeles.

Africa's progress between now and 2030 will depend on three key factors: maintaining, if not increasing, the current growth momentum; addressing widespread disparities, including income inequality and discrimination against women and young people; and designing and implementing national development strategies that take into account changes in the fabric of national economies and international crises. 

"The AfDB has a project along these lines and I am optimistic and confident that in 10 years we will be celebrating a new African renaissance," declared Shimeles.