Inaugural AfDB Economic Conference (AEC) Opens in Tunis

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Tunis, 22 November 2006 – Distinguished researchers and policy makers from around the world converged on Tunis today for a three-day inaugural AfDB Economic Conference (AEC).

Welcoming the participants, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka explained that the conference brings together leading economists and development experts from inside and outside Africa to deliberate on pertinent issues of the day and provide Africa’s own expertise on how to tackle the challenges facing the continent.

"We want the staff of the AfDB, think-tanks, universities, research institutes networks as well as development centres outside Africa, to consider this conference as your opportunity to interact, exchange, scale up our understanding of Africa’s challenges and consolidate ‘the lion’s’ voice", he said.

The AfDB, he said, had since its creation in 1964, contributed enormously to the mobilization and deployment of resources for the socio-economic development of the continent, adding that the institution was now progressively stepping up its budget support operations that are projected to nearly US$ 3.2 billion, excluding debt relief operations.

The President also said the Bank was engaged in an internal exercise to determine how best to channel efforts to enable the continent to participate in growing global prosperity, by promoting a healthier investment climate, reducing the risks and costs of doing business in Africa, and investing to unlock those bottlenecks that impede Africa’s competitive position.

However, beyond the Bank’s role as a channel of development financing, it must also provide its member countries with critically needed policy advice support on how best to do things on economic reforms, private sector development and how best to exercise ownership.

The AEC is being organized under the auspices of the Office of the Chief Economist, Louis Kasekende, who, while welcoming participants, described the conference as "a signal that we want to break the isolation of national policy-makers".

In a keynote address, Professor Patrick Guillaumont of the France-based CERDI (International Development Research Studies Centre) said Africa’s Economic Vulnerability remains a critical challenge for growth. He highlighted the relationship between vulnerability and human capital, saying that structural vulnerability could lower human capital, and this could in turn be detrimental to economic growth. 

Prof. Guillaumont noted: "Regional integration, which, lowering exposure and increasing resilience, can be a major factor to dampen vulnerability and make growth more sustainable…".

Microsoft Africa Director, Cheick Modibo Diarra, for his part, called for the development of infrastructure across the continent. He said the global community was ready to assist development efforts in Africa, adding, however, that the continent which is naturally endowed, should count on its own ability and resources.

The Tunisian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Slaheddine Jemmali, who inaugurated the conference, said that Africa had to be in charge of its own destiny, adding that intra-African dialogue was necessary for the sharing of experiences.

More than 250 African think-tanks including many eminent researchers, economists, university professors and representatives of international organizations such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), UK-based DFID, the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and senior government officials are attending the event.

The conference is featuring presentations and discussions on a variety of issues including ‘Lessons from Asia: The Experience of Korea’ by Professor Ji Hong Kim of the Sogang University in South Korea, ‘Sources of Growth in Africa: Agriculture, Manufacturing, Services, ICT, Technology Base’ by World Bank Director, Alan Gelb. Others are:  ‘Export Capacity Constraints: Taking Advantage of Market Access, Branding, Networks, Supply/Value Chains’ by Professor Ademola Oyejide of the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, ‘Africa in the World Trading System’ by Mr. Patrick Low of the WTO, ‘Capital Markets: Roles and Challenges’ by Professor Victor Murinde of the University of Birmingham; ‘Commercial Banks in Sub-Saharan Africa’ by Professor Colin Kirkpatrick of the University of Manchester, among others.

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