The 7th edition of the yearly African Economic Conference got underway in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, Tuesday with hundreds of leaders and scholars from across the continent in attendance.
The four-day conference will discuss the continent’s prospects for sustainable and inclusive growth in the context of the international economic crisis.
In his opening speech, host President Paul Kagame said, “In Rwanda, we understand that politics and economics go hand in hand and we have made a conscious and deliberate choice of inclusive development based on our political reality.
”By and large, they have produced positive results. Growth has been consistent and poverty levels considerably reduced by 12 per cent, from 56.9 per cent to 44 per cent in five years,” he said.
Africa has weathered the economic crisis and achieved considerable advances in the area of poverty reduction and human development. However, the region is still home to high levels of poverty, hunger, unemployment and inequality in political voice and access to resources.
“Over the first decade of this century, with the exception of 2008, Africa experienced exceptional economic performance and growth in GDP per capita.
”But there is a way to go in many countries to translate that growth into higher human development. Deliberate policy measures and targeted investments are needed to make growth not just fast, but also inclusive and sustainable.” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said.
For his part, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Donald Kaberuka underscored the need for long-term solutions, and suggested that Africa’s growth should include doing research on solutions on how African countries could internally finance their development, and learning from what has gone wrong globally to redesign their policies.
Africa must invest in quality education in order to stop children from inheriting poverty from generation to generation, Kaberuka said, adding: “This is how you stop children from inheriting living conditions of debt, and once you do that you have stopped the transmission of poverty.”
Also speaking at the opening, former Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo said inclusive development must include equity, equality, popular participation not only in politics but also in the economy itself.
”And then of course there must be transparency, and all those things that make the governed believe and have confidence in those who govern them,” he said.
The conference is organised annually by the AfDB, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)