Researchers Focus on Capacity Building

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Africa is enjoying a relatively consistent and modest annual growth rate of about six per cent, yet it is also in a situation where growth is not satisfactorily being translated into poverty reduction, said ECA Executive-Secretary, Abdoulie Janneh, on Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the opening of the African Economic Conference.  Jointly organised by the African Development Bank Group and the Economic Commission for Africa, the conference highlighted the role of the intelligentsia in addressing development issues in Africa.

The first plenary session of the conference focused on capacity building and rethinking industrial policy. The Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium, William M. Lyakurwa, focused on "Capacity Building and Research Partnerships" with emphasis on the emerging economies of China and India. Africa stands to gain from globalisation, which offers a number of opportunities to the continent.

The growth of China and India, he said, has contributed to the increase in revenues from commodity prices, with more benefits recorded from international labour migration and related remittances. Africa’s increasing access to agricultural and infrastructure technologies and investments in human capital are among the benefits of globalisation, with democracy leading to good economic governance.

China is enjoying a real GDP growth of nearly 12 per cent per annum. Although the second largest exporter and importer in the world, China is making its involvement more significant by investing in other countries. China, once known for its exports, is now increasingly involved in the construction, manufacturing and other sectors of the continent’s economy. A concern raised during the plenary session was that China’s relationship with Africa might be lopsided. "China has its own objectives," said Mr Lyakurwa, "the question is how Africa fits into that objective".

He argued that Africa could gain a lot by providing the resources required by China’s growing economy. Africa’s development challenges, such as population growth, poverty, increasing disease burden, weak human and institutional capacity, as well as poor natural resource management could be addressed through partnerships. He said national research institutes could conduct country-specific studies on relevant topics. He pointed out that the continent was already benefiting from bilateral relations with China, the US and the EU. He added that regional economic communities were also playing a proactive role in the development of trade and infrastructure. Mr. Lyakurwa depicted three levels of partnerships that could help Africa deal with its challenges.

He also commended the African Economic Research Consortium, UNECA, the AU and the NEPAD, the AfDB, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO for "contributing to the achievement of African countries’ development objectives."  However, capacity building remains a formidable challenge for the continent, he said.

"Individuals come and go, but institutions stay," Mr. Lyakurwa said while addressing a question from a participant. "The capacity of the individual and that of the institute have to go hand in hand," he stressed.

Participants also used the occasion to examine the issue of brain drain. Brain drain leads to knowledge sharing, but its impact on sectors such as health and education could be devastating. Participants were therefore urged to reflect on this issue in order to come up with possible solutions.

With regard to joint ventures among institutions, Mr. Lyakurwa said they could make significant contributions to policy discourse as they build the internal capacity of governments and institutions to develop a proactive and informed approach to seeking strategic solutions required by individual countries.