Addis Ababa, 26 March 2015 (ECA) – Africa must change the global narrative on its social and economic development, owing to its consistently positive performance in terms of growth, domestic resource mobilisation and social transformation. This is the key message from the first thematic session of the pre-ministerial segment of the 8th Joint Annual Meetings of the AU Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration and the ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, currently taking place in the Ethiopian capital.
The session, dedicated to reviewing recent economic and social developments in Africa, was anchored on a presentation by Adam Elhiraika, Director of the Macroeconomic Policy Division of ECA. According to the ECA official, despite the odds, Africa will continue to do better than most other regions of the world in terms of economic performance and should now be regarded as the land of opportunity. The continent is tipped for continuous growth, with East Africa expected to top the charts at 6.3%.
This good news for East Africa, he said, stems from its expanding private consumption, mainly due to a rising middle class, improved intra-regional trade, as well as huge investments in infrastructure and communications. The same factors, he said, also hold true although to a lesser extent, for other regions of the continent. Additional contributing factors include targeted efforts in the fight against corruption and inefficiency, as well as cuts on non-essential state expenditure. The results can be seen in a continent that has kept its deficit at just 4.2%.
Additionally, there has been a marked improvement in Africa’s social development, especially in terms of primary school enrolment. Gender parity and the provision of health services have also scored higher than in the recent past.
There is, however, a downside. “African countries are transforming, but the pace of transformation and social development remains very slow,” said Mr Elhiraika. He pointed out that the continent needs to improve its economic and social institutions, mend its business climate and improve financing mechanisms.
He said a crucial development would be for Africa to reduce its manufacturing deficit, in order to improve the quality of growth through the creation of jobs.
If it is true that the current slump in oil prices has negatively impacted the economies of oil producing countries, the effects on the continent as a whole have been minimal. The experts debated why oil-importing countries in Africa have not benefitted much from declining oil prices, while suggesting that the continent should seriously tackle urban-rural inequalities and address the debilitating effects that conflicts have on economic development. In this regard, a proposal was made to set up of an early warning system on conflicts, in order to help quell skirmishes.
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