For a prosperous Africa in the next half a century, its growth story must go along with peace: Kabagambe

22/05/2014
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Given its remarkable growth in the past decades, Africa has been hailed as the next frontier for opportunity and a potential global growth pole. Political conflicts have declined, economic growth is robust and economic management, governance and political stability have improved. However, Anne Kabagambe, Chief of Staff and Director of the African Development Bank President’s Cabinet, largely dwelled on what should be done differently if we want a prosperous continent in the next half century.

In her view, the vision of Africa in the next 50 years must be firmly anchored in the aspirations of its people – women and men, young and old, rural and urban populations. This means that the African trajectory over the next five decades hinges on Africa reaching a strong, sustained and inclusive growth that is supported by sound policies and better infrastructure which will drive improvements in the conditions to allow the private sector to grow and attract investments. 

She contends that the continent needs primarily to be at peace with itself and its neighbours, noting that conflict and fragility are major constraints for its development. About one third of its states, home to more than 200 million people, are considered to be in a state of relative socio-economic fragility. “Mounting effective policy response to the most disruptive changes facing the continent is one of the effective ways of addressing fragility and conflict in Africa,” she underscored, echoing Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf, Chairperson of the AfDB High Level Panel on Fragile States in Africa.

Kabagambe also says that if the continent would be prosperous, there would be an urgent need to create resilient states and societies able to manage these pressures and to prevent conflict involving all actors including the private sector and civil society organizations (CSOs). “Regional solutions are also needed to address some of the drivers of conflicts that have a regional dimension, such as Sudan and South Sudan, where cooperation on cross-border natural resources management and monitoring could go a long way towards shared peace and regional prosperity.” Kabagambe further said that the continent needs to be people-centered.

Africa’s impressive growth story has not translated into economic diversification, commensurate jobs or faster social development. “The challenges for the next 50 years chiefly call for job creation and employment opportunities, especially in the private sector, for Africa’s growing and youthful population,” she noted.

It is widely acknowledged that the agricultural sector has a strong influence on growth, employment, food security and poverty reduction efforts benefiting the entire economy. Drawing from these experiences, Kabagambe said that African economies should benefit from greater participation in global and regional value chains with higher value added goods, the development of human capital to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship especially among the youth and women, as well as to increase agriculture productivity to improve food security. “This will allow the rural populations to enjoy a many-fold increase in incomes while also making farms – large and small – profitable.”

She also touched on Africa’s economic integration as well as the rationale behind Rwanda hosting the 2014 Annual Meetings. She said regional integration is an essential factor for Africa to realize Africa’s full growth potential, to participate in the global economy and to share the benefits of an increasingly connected global marketplace. “Building transport and communications infrastructure will improve physical and virtual connectivity. Strengthening regional economic communities and other regional partnerships will facilitate regional planning and economic integration, making it easier for goods and people to cross borders, creating larger, more attractive regional markets and boosting intra-African trade.”

Please tell us about the significance of this year’s Annual Meetings being held in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

“The choice of Rwanda to host the AGM in Kigali is a recognition of the country’s leadership in promoting socio-economic transformation over the last two decades,” Kabagambe noted, explaining that “the country’s GDP growth has averaged just over 8.5% per year over the last 15 years leading to a decline in headcount poverty rate from above 60% in 2000 to 57% in 2005 and below 45% in 2010.

“The 49th Annual Meetings are an important opportunity for Rwanda to showcase what it has done over the last two decades to eminent development practitioners around the world and to draw lessons on what is happening elsewhere in Africa.

“Rwanda is positioning itself as a destination for tourism services including conference tourism.  Hosting the Annual Meetings events in Kigali, therefore, is an opportunity for the government to showcase what it has to offer in terms of hotel accommodation, leisure, IT, security and transport services and other related conference services to the over 3,000 delegates who are attending. It also provides a practical experience to draw on future lessons when organizing a conference as big as this.

“Lastly, Rwanda has mobilized its private sector, including hotels, foreign exchange bureaus, banks and communication companies to provide services during the event. The event therefore is an opportunity for them to make money over the course of this week,” Kabagambe concluded.