African countries still among the least developed in the world

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Countries were ranked according to per capita income, human assets, and economic vulnerability. Among them were the likes of Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Andrew Mold, economic affairs officer at UNECA, spoke of the challenges faced by many of these countries.

“We haven’t seen so much progress in terms of the structural transformation of the economies away from the agricultural sector towards manufacturing and high value added services,” he said.

He pointed out that although a number of poor countries had been growing quite fast much of that was attributed to commodity price trends.

“African countries export prices have been high particularly for mineral exports also for soft commodities such as agricultural products,” said Mold.

“There are signs in the global markets that these are weakening particularly in the hard commodity market. Oil for example has come down enormously over the past 12 months and that may present some challenges in terms of growth for some of these economies.”

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Looking ahead Mold said policy makers and economists agree that the continent needs to focus on structural transformation of the continent towards high-value added sectors and manufacturing and services.

He looks to Ethiopia as an example of a country whose largest foreign exchange earner comes from Ethiopian Airlines.

“A low-income country that has had the capacity to build up an international airline of that kind is quite a remarkable story to tell.”

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Rwanda is also following in similar footsteps by placing money and resources towards developing its own international carrier, Rwanda Air.

“These strategies are complicated to get off the ground but if they do get off the ground the important parts of the package, in terms of building the right policies, provide opportunies for more service sector investment and more tourism,” he concluded.