Fourth AEC-Researchers Track Missing Links in Africa’s Development

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Addis Ababa, 13 November 2009 – The 2009 African Economic Conference (ECA) ended on Friday 13 November in Addis Ababa, where Africa’s prominent researchers, policy makers and development partners brainstormed on various development challenges facing the continent.

Several issues emerged from the theme of the conference, “Fostering Development in an Era of Economic Crisis”. The most dominant among these was the consensus that would be possible for African countries to develop and grow even in times of crisis if they summoned the necessary political will to refocus their development trajectories.

There was also a general agreement that Africa needed to do more to link research and productivity as well as frequent bottom-up conversation between policymakers and academia in the design and implementation of projects.

The conference also pointed to other issues impinging on the continent’s development to include climate and biodiversity, weak private sector, population pressure, lack of infrastructure, underdeveloped financial system, weak human capacity and poor governance.

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, gave a seminal lecture on the way Africa must go, premised on so many “probabilities” and “possibilities” that tended to define the African condition.

He urged African countries to craft innovative strategies on climate change and find a way of attracting surplus resources from Asia and the Gulf States for investment in key sectors in Africa.

“If the decision to tackle climate change effectively were to be made, then Africa with its vast sources of renewable energy: solar, wind, hydropower, bio-energy….would have an important niche in the global market,” he said.

Mr. Meles said economic policy-making in the current era should focus on designing strategies that can make “the possible probable.”

AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka was equally optimistic saying that although Africa was hard-hit by the crisis, at the macroeconomic level, the continent was emerging in better shape than earlier expected.  He attributed this to “stamina and firmness of purpose in staying the course on sound policies.”

Mr. Kaberuka said the problem of creating employment and stimulating global demand may be dealt with by extending Keynesian policies to African countries in the same way they were extended to Europe during the great depression.

He also asked the conference to address the issue of diversification – noting that after fifty years of independence; most African economies were still commodity-dependent.

The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Abdoulie Janneh, said that Africa should  continue to focus on promoting high level, sustainable and job-creating growth, irrespective of the economic and financial crisis.

He said the ECA would continue in partnership with the African Union and the AfDB to provide the necessary research and advisory services to member states and regional economic communities that are critical for the transformation of Africa.

The African Union Commission Chair, Jean Ping noted the world was conscious that it would be impossible to continue to ignore an entire continent which is home to one-seventh of the world’s population with a market of over one billion people.

The three-day conference was jointly organized by the AfDB and the ECA as a platform designed to bring together African researchers, policy-makers and development agencies to brainstorm and come up with mechanisms to tackle the continent’s development challenges.

The key issues discussed at the conference reflected many of the challenges facing the continent following the financial crisis. These included poverty and inequality, foreign investment, fiscal and monetary policy, regional integration, remittances, competitiveness of the financial services sector, banking sector performance and aid effectiveness.

Others comprised development finance, private sector development, health issues, agricultural growth strategies, as well as growth and macroeconomic perspectives. More than 40 research papers were presented at the conference.

The AEC, which has become the continent’s premier high-level forum for debate on African economic and development issues, was inaugurated in November 2006 by the AfDB. It has been jointly organised with the ECA since 2007.