African Economic Conference Considers Prospects for Re-launching Africa’s Development

Addis Ababa, 11 November 2009 – Prospects for re-launching sustainable growth and development in the wake of the global financial crisis and ensure that the gains made by many African countries in the last three decades are not eroded is at the heart of deliberations at the fourth African Economic Conference (AEC) which opened Wednesday 11 November 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The 11-13 November Conference, jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on the theme “Fostering Development in an Era of Financial Economic and crises”, is designed to come up with ideas needed to tackle the challenges and promote development.

In their opening remarks welcoming delegates to the annual gathering, the ECA Trade, Finance and Economic Development Director, Emmanuel Nnadozie and the AfDB’s Chief Economist, Louis Kasekende, urged  hundreds of researchers attending the conference to view the global economic and financial crisis as a an opportunity to re-launch growth and development on the continent.

”Today, Africa is at the crossroads of development strategies. As we seek to re-start growth, we should also look at how this growth can generate employment and improve living conditions in Africa,” Mr. Nnadozie said.

The crisis, he emphasized, provides Africa an opportunity to re-evaluate development strategies, policies and practices, and move from dependence on primary commodity export to develop internal capacities to produce, industrialize and compete.  “Now is Africa’s moment to claim the 21st century,” Mr. Nnadozie added.

For his part, AfDB Chief Economist, Louis Kasekende, identified structural constraints that needed to be tackled in order to better harness the continent’s natural resources and human capital.

These include unequal distribution of income and high levels of poverty, weak governance, lack of diversification, ineffective use of natural resources and climate change. “We need to identify policy options that will help Africa face up to the challenges in partnership with academia, policy makers and development practitioners. We need to design interventions appropriate to country circumstances.”

Some 300 hundred ministers, economists, development experts, advocacy groups and the media are attending conference.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will officially open the conference on Thursday. This will be followed by opening remarks by ECA Executive Secretary, Abdoulie Janneh, AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka and the African Union Commission Chair, Jean Ping.

Designed as a knowledge-sharing platform between economists and policy-makers, the AEC is expected to generate ideas for improving the quality of economic policies within the region. The agenda of this year’s conference reflect challenges facing many African countries following the global financial and economic crisis.

These include poverty and inequality, foreign investment, fiscal and monetary policy, regional integration, remittances, competitiveness of the financial services sector, banking sector performance and aid effectiveness.

Others comprise development finance, private sector development, health issues, agricultural growth strategies, as well as growth and macroeconomic perspectives.

The discussions will be concluded on Friday 13 November 2009 with a roundtable on “Policy Responses to the Financial Crisis - Lessons Learned and the Way Forward”.

The AEC, which has earned credibility as the premier high level forum for debate on African economic and development issues, was inaugurated in November 2006 by the AfDB. It has been jointly organised with the Economic Commission for Africa.

Written by Ayenew Haileselassie