African Leaders committed to continent’s economic rebirth

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African leaders are firmly committed to lead new policies based on a strong growth, rocketing demography and huge natural resource potential, to create the conditions of Africa’s economic rebirth.

Gathered in Marrakesh since Monday for the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) that officially opened on Thursday, more than 1,000 African heads of State and Government, bankers and economic experts are working on new strategies to tackle poverty, underdevelopment, and put their weight behind the global negotiations in order to ensure the continent enters a new era.

Gabon’s President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, made it clear in his speech at the meetings: “The future destination of our continent (…) is emergence. I consider emergence to be the new frontier of prosperity all our countries can hope for.

“Our continent as a whole should resolutely answer to the challenge to transform our economies, now based on the pensions and benefit of raw materials, into economies based on the added and diversified value. This path is a true and paramount leap in the public governance of Africa,” he underlined.

In a message read to the participants, His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, stressed that the AfDB meeting is taking place “at a critical juncture which is characterized, in particular, by an acceleration of the structural reform of the international economic order, and by a gradual shift of the global economy’s centre of gravity towards the South.”

Reminding attendees of all the assets of Africa (young and growing population, strong economic growth, important development potentials), the King of Morocco stated that “there is tremendous, unprecedented interest in Africa, which today is truly an attractive option when it comes to partnership and economic growth.

“Seen from this perspective, the way seems to be paved for Africa to achieve inclusive, sustainable growth, provided the major challenges confronting our continent are addressed in a bold manner,” he said, calling upon leaders to “seek to develop a pan-African vision for sustainable development” that should be led by the AfDB.

New Strategy

For Africa, which enjoyed a 6.6 per cent growth rate in 2013, it is time to meet three major challenges: first, boost economic growth and diversify the origins of the growth by expanding a secondary sector that creates jobs; second, to ensure the reduction of poverty and social inequalities through education and growing transparency; third, it is necessary to ensure a responsible management of natural resources, which is respectful of the environment and oriented towards the benefit of current and future generations.

In this context, the AfDB, which is enjoying excellent financial results this year, has launched a new Ten-Year Strategy with two main goals targetting Africa’s structural transformation: “inclusive growth and transition to green growth”.

The objectives of the strategy would be achieved through five long-term operational priorities: infrastructure development, regional integration, private sector development, improved transparency coupled with good governance, and higher education and science and technology.

During the formal opening ceremony, the AfDB President Donald Kaberuka described positive improvements in Africa such as the increase of intra-African trade, the doubling in only 12 years of the continent’s GDP, which for the first timein history has surpassed US $1,000.

“Infant and maternal mortality is down by a half. Life expectancy is up from 40 to 60 years. There are more children in school than at any time in recent history. Seven out of 10 Africans own a mobile phone. Absolute poverty is on the decline,” he said.

However, Kaberuka tempered these good results by reminding those present that persistent problems and challenges remain, such as the tragedy of illegal immigration to Northern countries, the deficit of decent jobs for the 10 to 12 million young Africans entering the job market every year, conflict and climate change.

Kaberuka elaborated his view of the continent through the example of mobile phones in Africa: “Sub Saharan Africa has more cell phones than North America and Europe combined. (…). However, none of the thousands of the components of those cell phones were made in Africa.

“In short, while the volume and the value of our raw materials have increased – thereby generating more revenues to invest and to spur public investment – the structure of our economy has remained the same. For the large majority of our countries, what they produce is still missing from the higher global value chains. The consequence is less job opportunities, because the transformation of our economies is still along way off,” he stressed.

According to Kaberuka, the new AfDB Strategy 2013-2022 therefore “targets not simply impressive growth in GDP terms, but a growth that creates jobs, and builds trust, hope and thereby sustainability. Economic growth that is socially fair as well as environmentally sustainable.”

He also stated that Australia will soon complete its adhesion process to the Bank and the African Development Fund.

The Africa50Fund

Finally, Kaberuka also announced the launch of the new Africa50Fund that “can transform the infrastructure financing landscape, operating on a purely commercial basis. It will unblock what have been Africa’s weaknesses in attracting private capital in infrastructure, namely its ability to bring projects to bankability, and its ability to manage associated risks – commercial, political and regulatory.”

The AfDB’s Annual Meetings, which started on Monday and will wind down on Friday, May 31, have already focused on different topics such as infrastructure development, energy, new funding sources, illicit capital flows, management of natural resources, and results of the Bank, among others.

During the meetings a timetable is to be set up for the return of the Bank to its headquarters in Abidjan in 2014, and the opening of four more country offices in 2013 in Congo, Benin, Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania.

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