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Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. (Photo UNECA)

The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Mr. Carlos Lopes, has called for a ‘revisit of the global perception of Africa,’ which continues to be one of a continent plagued by crises and a place where making investments is hazardous.

Mr. Lopes was speaking at the opening of a two-day “Global Growth Conference”, Thursday, in Rabat, Morocco, at the initiative of the Amadeus Institute,an independent Moroccan think tank and policy organization founded in 2008. The Conference is focusing on “The economic emergence of the African continent”.

Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. (Photo UNECA)
Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. (Photo UNECA)

Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. (Photo UNECA)

The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Mr. Carlos Lopes, has called for a ‘revisit of the global perception of Africa,’ which continues to be one of a continent plagued by crises and a place where making investments is hazardous.

Mr. Lopes was speaking at the opening of a two-day “Global Growth Conference”, Thursday, in Rabat, Morocco, at the initiative of the Amadeus Institute,an independent Moroccan think tank and policy organization founded in 2008. The Conference is focusing on “The economic emergence of the African continent”.

Speaking to over 500 participants, Mr. Lopes said that other regions in the world, namely in Asia, are just as fraught with conflicts and widespread unrest, and yet, they are not branded as unstable, but rather, hailed as “attractive and dynamic contributor to world growth.’

“But the rationale has to change,” said ECA’s Executive Secretary, stating that what Africa desires is in fact, “structural transformation and not structural adjustment” and that in order for Africa to grow and transform, a clear understanding of our times is needed.

To attain this objective, Mr. Lopes insisted that industrialization was indispensable to transformation, as it will help to generate employment, increase incomes and enable diversification. ” He underlined however, that the right starting point is “a leadership that provides a clear vision and mobilizes all sectors of society behind the development imperative.”

Making a strong plea for a new culture of development in Africa, Mr. Lopes laid emphasis on the need “to change our approaches, attitudes, and priorities. We have to nurture a highly educated, healthy and skilled population that can imbibe the technology and build the infrastructure which is indispensable for progress.”

While recognizing that some of the fastest growing economies in the world are African, he cautioned however against embarking on false hopes and insisted that this growth experience “is not sufficient as it falls short of 7% which is the minimum required to double average incomes in a decade. This is partly due to the fact that far too many of our economies are dependent on the production and export of primary commodities, and far too many are highly unequal”. This explains the need for real structural transformation through a “large scale transfer of resources from low to high productivity sectors. “This means a significant change in the sectoral composition of Gross Domestic Product with the share of the primary sector in employment and output shifting to industry and modern services, and a greater use of technology and increased productivity across sectors.”

Talking about commodity based industrialization as one approach with prospects for success on the way to industrialization for transformation; Mr. Lopes explained that a commodity based approach “offers also an immediate scope for value addition and plenty of opportunity for exploiting forward and backward linkages. He also listed four requisites to achieve the industrialization agenda to meet the needs of a plural continent. These are mainly:

i) The need for Africa to use its bargaining position by leveraging its resources and maximizing the demands in the commodities where it enjoys a dominant position.

ii) The right and latitude for Africa to free itself from a particular technology preference or paradigm and follow a green and clean energy pathway, all the more since its vast hydropower, geothermal, biomass, wind and solar power potential is an amazing asset.

iii) The need for Africa to focus on its domestic consumption. As an example, the shift from primary production towards modern agri-business provides a lucrative opportunity for a large number of smallholder farmers and for generating modern jobs for the continent’s youth.

iv) The need to give a human face to industrialization, which should be inclusive and offer a window of opportunity to women and youth, through boosting their empowerment and economic contribution.

To accompany the implementation of these requisites, Mr. Lopes insisted, more attention should be paid to domestic resource mobilization, more robust data and better statistical systems, while accelerating the regional integration process, especially that its potential is still largely untapped.

For her part, Madame M’barka Bouaida, Minister delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco. Stressed the importance of adopting new approaches, such as promoting economic diplomacy, and south-south partnership and co-development.

Harnessing technology to serve the transformation process which Africa is bound to opt for was underlined by Mr. Brahim Fassi-Fihri, Chair of Amadeus Institute. He said this would be a key means for Africa to master its development. “Africa needs to project such an image, all the more since the Continent has a lot of potential”


Source: UNECA

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