Liliane Alapini, Technical Economic Advisor, Ministry for the Development of Economic Analysis and Planning, Benin
The work of the African Economic Conference (AEC) is constructive and helps us to realize that Africa is experiencing a phase of transformation in its regional integration. The continent has made progress in structural transformation thanks to recent growth. The expanding middle classes have created new markets for goods and services. Investors seeking to benefit from these new markets in Africa are likely to find more business opportunities than before, since African governments are striving to reduce transaction costs. As well as increasing consumption markets, African countries are discovering additional natural resources. If these resources are well managed, they may help to stimulate economic growth and development in the region, and improve the lives of millions of people. But there is still much to be done and the leadership needs to be aware of this. Furthermore, youth unemployment in Africa is a symptom of the absence of structural change. Other challenges need to be met. On the one hand this means reinforcing infrastructure and investing road, port, airport and energy projects, and on the other hand it is necessary to tackle development of the private sector and take advantage of the boom in natural resources. We must therefore make the most of the potential of ICT and mobile telephone technology.
The opening statement by the AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, clearly outlined the milestones of continental integration. Using images, numbers and statistics, the AfDB appeals to us to awaken our consciences. Researchers, policymakers, civil society organizations, and the private sector attending this economic conference in Johannesburg must focus on integration.
On the subject of leadership, it was interesting to hear from an expert panel including the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the President of the AfDB, the Deputy Executive Secretary of UNECA, and the South African Minister of Finance, who pointed out that “regional integration in Africa concerns everyone. Each of us must help to promote a better image of the continent, with a view to developing social cohesion between African countries.”