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On Wednesday, November 4, 2015, an expert panel was assembled in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, during the 10th African Economic Conference (AEC). The panel, which met during Plenary Session 5, engaged in discussions on the following theme: “Stakeholders’ perspectives in addressing poverty and inequality in Africa”. The assembled experts set out a series of conditions for successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015.
The session opened with expressions of unanimous support for the progress achieved in Africa through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Jean Baptiste Ntagoma, Professor at the University of Bukavu and Senior Advisor of the Prime Minister of DRC in Charge of Strategy and Prospective, explained that Africa was well behind other continents across all indicators when the MDGs were launched in 2000. In his view, some of the continent’s failings on certain indicators may be justified by the sheer scale of the task facing Africa.
“Now that the continent has caught up with the rest of the world in some sectors, the conditions are right for successful implementation of the SDGs,” said Prof. Ntagoma. He explained that this can be achieved by strengthening governance and securing greater private sector involvement in development through the implementation of major economic projects. He argued that public-private partnerships are an ideal opportunity to inject fresh impetus into African economies, create wealth and jobs, and support robust economic growth, thereby delivering a genuine impact for the population.
Prof. Ntagoma also stressed the need for genuine political engagement and the production of high-quality statistics – something that is severely lacking in Africa at the present time.
Honoré Njibikila Nkonka, the head of one of DRC’s leading employers’ federations, also called for greater private sector involvement. “We are the key driver of growth,” said Njibikila Nkonka. “We need to establish a legal consultation framework to ensure that the right conditions are in place to create wealth and drive growth. This, in turn, will have a direct impact on the most vulnerable populations through the creation of both direct and indirect jobs.” He also stressed the need for large-scale investment in human capital, focusing on both senior executives and skilled workers across all sectors.
Prof. Benoit Chevalier, of Sciences Po Paris, argued that the right conditions are now in place for Africa to implement its post-2015 agenda with success. “Africa must now take the bold step of changing its habits,” he explained. “For example, the continent must stop the mass export of raw materials. Now is the time to implement courageous policies and to move towards a model under which these materials are processed locally. This will create new jobs, value-added and wealth.” Prof. Chevalier pointed to the example of Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s leading cocoa producer, which has recently implemented a new policy under which its cocoa beans are processed locally.
Elisabeth Lwanga Nanziri, member of an African economists’ association, put forward her view that the continent’s business leaders must seek to include civil society. In her view, the actions of civil society have a direct impact on the target populations, i.e. the most marginalised members of society.
Coumba Mar Gadio, UN Resident Coordinator, Equatorial Guinea, focused on the importance of gender issues. “We cannot implement the SDGs successfully unless gender issues are taken into account across all policies and programmes,” she explained. Mar Gadio pointed to the findings of various studies showing that women account for 70% of the workforce in Africa and produce between 40% and 50% of all food consumed on the continent. She also highlighted the findings of a recent UNDP study indicating that the exclusion of women results in a 4% reduction in Africa’s GDP.
“We need to include gender indicators in our SDG and public policy monitoring procedures, and ensure that women are properly integrated into all productive sectors,” she concluded.