African growth, inequality and unemployment under the spotlight at Dakar meeting of ministers

Development of the youth, regional integration and industrialisation on the continent will be top of the agenda of African Development Week 2017, which kicks off in Dakar, Senegal today, 23 March. This is the 10th annual meetings hosted jointly by the African Union Specialised Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration, and the Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

That’s quite a mouthful. But there will indeed be a lot to be discussed over this jammed-packed week, which will keep delegates on their toes during long sessions, which include the formal programme and interesting and important side events.

Dr. René Kouassi, Director for Economic Affairs, Commission for the African Union, welcomed the media and put them in the picture of the main issues and talking points of the week.

The theme for the meetings is Growth, Inequality and Unemployment. These are important areas of discussion for the continent, as growth has been weak, at a rate of only 0.5%. The drop in commodity prices has severely affected a continent reliant on its resources.

Through the commodity boom years, Africa did not invest in industrialisation, preferring to concentrate on the service industries and agriculture.

Dr. Kouassi is of the opinion that the continent is in need of radical solutions of its problems, including food, economic and financial insecurity.

Fifty-two years after independence, African economies remain dormant. This has caused a wave of migration, especially among the youth, who go in search of job opportunities outside of their home countries, many leaving the continent. And then there is the issue of the stateless, the people who have never been registered at citizens of any African country.

“We need radical transformation, otherwise the migration factor will continue to haunt Africa,” Dr. Kouassi said. “Only by integration, can the continent absorb and deal with the external shocks” it is facing today.

Also addressing the media, Dimitri Sanga, Director ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, UN Economic Commission for Africa, said ordinary Africans are not being given the tools to generate enough income to support their families. Personal income can only be improved by countries putting a greater emphasis on processing and industrialisation, while not neglecting efficient utilisation of their natural resources.

The balance of trade for most African countries is in deficit as they import more than they export. Intra-African trade makes up less than 15% of the continent’s trade, and this trend needs to be reversed.

The conference and meeting of ministers will also discuss Sustainable Development Goals, which should be achieved not only by individual countries, but also by regional groupings, to make an impact on structural transformation.

Other hot topics are a single regional currency, diversification of economies and investment funding.

Currently, $50 billion leaves African countries annually through illicit flows of money out of the continent, offsetting the foreign direct investment that comes into the continent.

Said Sanga: “We must mobilise our domestic resources and stop the haemorrhage of local money.”

Watch CNBC Africa from today until Thursday next week for full coverage of Africa Development Week – in daily markets show interviews and five highlights specials.

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