Rwandan President Tasks Economic Experts with “Learning lessons from the past”

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Tuesday, October 30, urged a group of senior African economic experts, researchers and policy-makers gathered in Kigali to think outside the box and come up with new ideas for an economic model that responds to the needs of the African people.

Speaking at the opening of the seventh annual African Economic Conference, the first of its kind hosted by Rwanda and which was organized jointly by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Rwandan President stressed that despite the growth rate witnessed by some countries on the continent, there was also a need to learn lessons from past experience in order to ensure that the benefits of growth reach all people, especially the most vulnerable.

“Our [African] economies operate in both national and international political contexts, which have a huge impact on choices countries like ours make and their outcome,” observed the Rwandan President, who was flanked by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, and the United Nations Administrator, Helen Clark.

The seventh annual African Economic Conference has drawn around 400 participants, including economic experts and decision-makers from across Africa, to discuss critical issues in African development as a way to ensure economic growth, poverty reduction and inclusive development.

According to the 2012 African Economic Outlook, a joint publication produced by the AfDB, UNDP, ECA and the OECD Development Centre, between 2001 and 2010 six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, the report shows that employment opportunities are still not favourable for young people on the continent, with only an average of between 10 to 12 million young people entering the labour market each year.

In spite of this, President Kagame said the African continent has registered a decade of economic growth and there is optimism that the prospects are even better in the coming years.

Officials figures released in the AEO 2012 report show that economic growth across the African continent is expected to rebound from 3.4 per cent in 2011, and accelerate to 4.5 per cent in 2012 and 4.8 per cent in 2013.

Among other key challenges described to be part of hindrances to the economic growth of the continent include the fact that the majority of countries continue to face widespread poverty. Furthermore, the latest official figures show that close to 50 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than $1 a day.

For his part, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka emphasized the importance for Africa’s economic experts to suggest internal solutions in order to finance their respective economies.

“But inclusive development is impossible without energy access, broadband connectivity and adequate mechanisms to boost infrastructure for economic growth and other trade investments,” he stressed.

This year’s conference, which was organized under the theme of “Inclusive and Sustainable Development in an Age of Economic Uncertainty”, is expected provide a unique forum for in-depth presentations of policy-oriented research by both established academics and emerging talents from the continent.

The key topics to be discussed are related to inclusive growth, climate change and youth employment, and economic development in Africa during and beyond the current global crisis.

“Within this move, we are looking to see African continent turned into a continent of hope, prosperity and dignity […] That is what our people deserve,” Rwandan president Paul Kagame told delegates.