As Africa prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has called on Africa to use the current moment to tell its own story and shape Africa’s future growth trajectory.
UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA, Carlos Lopes, said as the continent celebrates the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the OAU, it must begin to ponder on the kind of society that it wishes to bequeath its children and grandchildren,
Lopes who referred to individual conflicts in Asia often looked at in isolation, noted that despite the widespread nature of all the conflicts in Asia, the region is not branded as unstable but rather seen as a dynamic contributor to global growth.
“Though the trend of conflict in Africa is downward and the numbers are smaller than Asia, the number of people affected is smaller in Asia and the global perception of Africa continues in many to be one of the continent beset by crisis and a risky place for making investments.
“Despite Africa being negatively affected, we are now moving towards an era of Afro-enthusiasm with the continent now attracting the attention of global consulting firms, multinational banks, hedge funds and private equity firms. This interest underscores Africa’s potential for economic and social transformation but we have to control the narrative,” Lopes on Monday told a Conference of African Ministers of Finance and Economic Development meeting in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
“Yes, it is true that in Africa we have conflicts such as in Mali, the Great lakes region, Sudan and Somalia but these are the remnants in a declining trend of conflict in Africa,” the ECA top official added.
He pointed to the fact that there were about 29 piracy attacks in 2009 of the coast of Somalia as compared to 150 attacks in Strait of Malacca in 2005, yet this did not lead to generalized negative perceptions about Asia and Asia’s economic prospects.
Lopes also noted that despite its reputed difficult business environment, Pakistan is the second largest textile exporter in the world.
“We have to seize the moment and transform this continent now that the headwinds are favourable. A changing global context with emergence of diversity of economic powers and increasing Africa’s leverage provide an opportunity to bring this about.”
Lopes noted that industrialization is not the only challenge facing Africa, as current projections show that Africa will be the largest and youngest continent in 50 years and will have become more urbanized.
In not so distant future, the continent will have as many Africans in cities as it has now, Lopes said, adding that the number of cities with over one million people has increased from one in 1960 to 33 today.
He cited Lagos, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Kinshasa and Luanda as some of the fastest growing urban areas in the world.
The joint AU/ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is meeting under the theme “industrialization for an emerging Africa”, exploring strategies and policies required to accelerate industrialization and support the promotion of value addition and reduce dependence on the production and export of unprocessed materials.
The two-day conference is expected to adopt a ministerial policy statement which will provide the basis for concerted action at national and regional levels on the issues discussed.