Fourth African Economic Conference-Imperative of Re-designing Africa’s Development Trajectory

12/11/2009
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Addis-Ababa, 12 November 2009 – Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, officially opened the 2009 African Economic Conference (AEC) on Thursday in Addis Ababa, where he tasked African economists and policy-makers to  consider redesigning the continent’s development trajectory for sustainable growth and development.

“We need to design strategies that would promote an effective global response to climate change, including adequate funding for adaptation by African countries,” he said.

“We need to design strategies to encourage the flow of surplus savings in Asia for infrastructural development in Africa and to promote relocation of labour-intensive manufacturing to our countries,” he stressed.

“We need to design strategies to enable African states design and implement strategies for economic transformation and to capitalize on the possibilities opened by the current global conjecture,” Mr. Meles told some 300 top researchers, policy-makers and representatives of development agencies in attendance.

Supporting these views, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Abdoulie Janneh, said the global economic and financial crisis provides African countries with a good opportunity to re-direct the continent’s development trajectory for enduring and sustainable growth.

“We are now compelled to come up with policy options that would enable African countries to surpass the 6% annual growth achieved prior to the financial crisis,” Mr. Janneh said.

Also addressing the delegates, the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Donald Kaberuka, explained the Bank Group’s efforts in assisting African countries mitigate the impact of the crisis through specific interventions, strategic orientation and advisory services.

Mr. Kaberuka emphasized the imperative of understanding what the crisis meant for the continent, noting that the phenomenon had once again exposed Africa’s “Achilles heels” – perpetual dependence on commodity exports which has been the bane of its economies for several decades.

He underscored the need for diversification, noting that the Bank would continue to focus on its areas of priority such as infrastructure development, promoting private sector, regional integration, governance, higher education, and agriculture.

For his part, the African Union Commission Chair, Jean Ping, commended efforts made by the AfDB and the ECA to help African countries cope with the crisis from its inception, noting that the AEC provides a veritable platform to generate strategies to re-launch sustainable growth in African countries.

Mr. Ping said “the world is now 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 1.4 billion consumers by 2020/2025”.

The three-day conference jointly organized by the AfDB and the ECA on the theme: “Fostering Development in an Era of Financial Economic and crises”, is 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 agenda of this year’s conference reflects challenges facing many African countries following the outbreak of the global financial and economic crisis. These include 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 comprise development finance, private sector development, health issues, agricultural growth strategies, as well as growth and macroeconomic perspectives.

The discussions will be concluded on Friday with a roundtable on “Policy Responses to the Financial Crisis - Lessons Learned and the Way Forward”.

The AEC, which has earned credibility as 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.