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ECA chief defines path for Africa’s transformative development

 Transformative development in Africa requires strategies and policies articulated to deliver a development outcome that produces an enduring and progressive transformation for the benefit of the people, Carlos Lopes, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said here Thursday.

“Growth that matters for Africans is one that is primarily anchored on their interest and concerns,” Lopes said at the start of the 22nd Ordinary Session of the African Union Executive Council, comprising African foreign ministers.

As the lead economist of the continent, Lopes said that translating current growth into a comprehensive project of transformative development would however not be easy.

“It requires a retooling of the African state and its institutions with the view to strengthening their capacity for strategising effectively,” he said, suggesting that attention be paid to deepening the capacity for comprehensive, integrated development planning and long term scenario analysis.

He explained, however, that these two areas call for bolder investments in the collection and deployment of statistical information and data-driven evidence.

Lopes said transormative development in Africa would also require new approaches to macro-economic policy-making and management, anchored on the primary goal of boosting growth and employment without losing overall balances necessary and permissible for relative stability.

From the mid 2000s onwards, many African countries began to experience economic growth, a few of them doing so in double-digit terms which, according to the ECA, placed them in the league of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Lopes noted that Africa’s return to growth during the first decade of the new millennium led to suggestions of Africa being a growth pole for the world.

Thanks to its new image, Africa now enjoys all forms of partnerships with key players in the contemporary international system.

Of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, six are in Africa while the continent is being referred to as having the best rates of return on investment in the world.

Spending in African households is currently more than in India, with Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos being a larger consumer market than Mumbai.

Lopes said the rule of law and respect for private property rights is spreading along with improvements in the African financial sector. The continent’s telecommunications revolution and its IT innovations have similarly taken the world by surprise.

“These changes have lifted Africa out of an era of Afro-pessimism to a new era of Afro-enthusiasm,” the ECA chief noted.

He, however, warned that any celebration of Africa’s return to the path of growth and its prospects should be cautious as the continent still faces important challenges that must be urgently and effectively dealt with.

Lopes explained that the challenges related to the quality and sustainability of growth, partly as a result of the massive degradation of production structures as well as state and institutional capacities.

“Some of these deficits coupled with a huge number of unemployed people, particularly youth, contribute to deep domestic and persistent poverty,” he said.


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