BY WANJOHI KABUKURU – Africa will need to adopt robust and homegrown governance initiatives so as to structurally develop.
This has been the clarion call in the on on-going African Economic Conference currently underway in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Now in its 12th year the conference which promotes knowledge management as a driver of policy dialogue, formulation and implementation in Africa was officially opened by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
“Governance is the reason why some nations and societies do better than others; and others stagnate or even collapse. So, now the question is: what kind of governance leads to transformation; and which one to stagnation or, even worse, regression? And what type of governance serves best in the African context?” Premier Desalegn posed in his keynote address. “No doubt, that state structuring and building for Africa is still a learning process that needs a late comer consideration that accounts for many unique realities and priorities. Africa’s priorities have to do with development, democracy and equity. As such for African countries to structurally transform themselves rapidly and inclusively, the better viable option is for them to have strong, activist, developmental and democratic state.”
In his keynote address Premier Hailemariam challenged the participants to
This year’s conference is organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the banner “Governance for Structural Transformation”.
ECA’s Executive Secretary Vera Songwe says that they took a deliberate step to pursue the concepts of ‘governance and structural transformation’ as the theme of the conference as these two are vital components in moving Africa towards the attainment of the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
“Governance as we all know determines which public resources get adopted and how they are implemented.” Dr Songwe says. “There is a growing consensus that African countries require a more conducive governance environment for them to be able to pursue better public policies and ultimately to achieve better outcomes, including structural transformation and inclusive development.”
Breaking down the meaning of “structural transformation” Dr Songwe says it refers to the “reallocation of factors of production such as capital, land and labour among others within different sectors of the economy to better support inclusive development through increased value addition, diversification, productivity and industrialisation.”
At the turn of the millennium most African nations recorded impressive growth of their gross domestic product reaching annual averages of 5.7 per cent between 2001 and 2008. In 2009 however the continent experienced a nosedive in fortunes as reduced demand for exports together with lower investments and development aid dwindled. At the time the Africa recorded a 2.5 per cent decelerated growth. Africa weathered the storms and recovered fast from the impacts of the global crisis between 2010 and 2015 due to a growing middle class, increased domestic consumption, intensified regional integration, effective macroeconomic management, increased diversified trade and investment with emerging countries.
The intensive conference is covering a wide range of socio-economic and political sectors such natural resources, regional integration, agriculture, trade, taxation, illicit flows, remittances and global value chains. At the heart of the conference are discussions seeking for better and more acceptable ways to integrate political will and good governance in addressing Africa’s required structural transformation. “The problem in Africa today is not policy formulation but policy implementation.” Dr Claude Kabemba of the Southern Africa Research Watch (OSISA) says.
According to Adam Elhiraika the director in charge of the Macroeconomic Policy Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) the economic conference brings together leading economic intellectuals, business leaders, representatives of bilateral partners’ organisations and civil society actors “to debate and recommend policy options on how to upscale governance for the structural transformation of African economies and societies.”