West Africa African countries face a common set of challenges, like industrialisation, job creation, and building social safety nets among others which need to be addressed, according to development experts.
They say Africa needs to focus on industrialisation as the backbone of structural transformation However, the continent’s industrialisation plans will not take off until infrastructure is fixed.
It’s against this background that African finance, planning and economic development ministers met recently in Abuja at the seventh Joint Annual Meetings of the Economic Commission for Africa to discuss the way forward.
The ministers resolved to make the necessary effort to increase productivity for investment and growth rate of the agricultural, manufacturing and modern services sectors in order to boost employment on the continent.
“The structural transformation of African economies must continue be a core priority and to close the poverty gap, industrialisation must be key to transformation,” Carlos Lopez, the UN under Secretary General and Executive Secretary said.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who was the chief guest said that African countries should work together in sourcing financing options for regional infrastructure projects and urged cabinet colleagues in trade and industry, to implement plans on industrialisation and trade integration.
They also pledged to address the problem of securing long-term financing for investing in manufacturing, including by reviving development banking and re-adjusting financial markets to make them more supportive of Africa’s industrialization efforts.
According to the ministers, industrialisation is one of the most viable paths to employment-generating growth and development” necessary for the structural transformation of the continent, the ministers declared.
While Africa’s growth rate has been among the highest in the world recently, African policy makers are concerned that the growth has not been inclusive while inequality has widened considerably.
In order to accelerate employment growth, large sectors with high employment elasticity need to constitute the main engine of growth, according to the ministers.
“We will also encourage the inflow of quality foreign direct investment which contributes to the expansion of domestic production, the diversification of exports, the transfer of technology, the upgrading of local skills, the development of local innovation, and the deepening of economic linkages,” the ministers’ joint statement reads in part.
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairperson, African Union Commission acknowledged that Africa’s economies have come a long way since the difficult and challenging 1980s and 1990s.
She said during that period, most of economies were saddled with high foreign debts, and burdened by inflation. The overall GDP growth of our economies was very low at about 2% per annum.
“The continent has turned the corner foreign debts are in decline, inflation is under control in most countries, and foreign direct investments are positively flowing back onto the continent,” she said.
Africa’s central bank governors also focused on structural transformation on the continent, promising to support inclusive and transformative growth policies and dynamic initiatives designed to actualize Africa’s industrialization.
They urged members to use monetary, credit and exchange rate policies to support the growth of industrialisation to combat poverty and unemployment ,the central bankers advised that the disconnect between the financial system and the real sector has to be addressed if Africa is to experience any meaningful industrialization.
The highlight of meeting was the launch of the Economic Report on Africa 2014, an annual co-production of the ECA and the AU. The title of this year’s report: Dynamic Industrial Policy in Africa: Innovative Institutions, Effective Processes and Flexible Mechanisms.