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Ethiopia: AfDB chief economist outlines path for Africa’s transformation

Populations of African countries should see to it that their respective governments are strengthened and always do the right thing to rid the continent of the scourges of poverty, ignorance and disease, the African Development Bank (AfDB)’s Acting Chief Economist and Vice President, Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa said here Sunday.

“Fighting poverty, disease and ignorance is equivalent to transforming the economy. If the people are well-fed, have access to health services and education, then we’ll have transformed our countries,” the AfDB official told journalists on the sidelines of the Ninth African Economic Conference (AEC), being held in Addis Ababa under the theme ‘Knowledge and Innovation for Africa’s Transformation’.

The AfDB has organized the meeting in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission  for Africa (UNECA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to bring a number of burning development issues on the African continent into perspective.

Experts in various fields and policymakers at the three-day conference, which opened Saturday, are discussing the possible types of innovation that Africa needs and what knowledge is relevant to advance the continent and its people.

“Till we reduce poverty to zero, we reduce ignorance to zero and disease to zero, then as Africans we can say ‘we are getting where we want to be’. Reducing poverty to zero level is a relative thing, but Africa should, at least, get rid of absolute poverty,” Kayizzi-Mugerwa explained.

He urged the African media to take the message that comes from this year’s conference about transformation of the continent to governments and the public at large so that everybody and every public or private institution plays its part.

“In every country there has to be a dedicated government and pressure from the population to make their demands heard and make sure governments deliver to the people,” the AfDB economist emphasized.

“In the AfDB we consider ourselves a knowledge bank, sometimes AfDB is referred to as an infrastructure bank because of the projects it finances, but we have a moral authority to bring out the message of African transformation.

“Policymakers should understand what is being discussed out there. We can try very much to help the people, but the aim is to have effective governments. Governments should be strengthened. AfDB won’t exist if it is not owned by strong governments.

“In terms of the needs of Africa, AfDB is a very small bank. That’s why we partner with governments, we provide advisory services and we have found a niche in advancing local skills. But all things we do are aimed at the broader target of advancement and improved quality of life of the people,” said Kayizzi-Mugerwa.

Meanwhile, UNDP’s chief economist for Africa, Ayodele Odusola, has urged public and private institutions on the continent to use science and modern technology to create jobs for the young population.

“A very large population in Africa is in the youth group. The absolute number of the people in poverty has increased due to the increasing rate of the population. This requires innovation to create decent jobs for the youth and set up more knowledge centres for the people to get skills,” Odusola said at a press briefing on the sidelines of the AEC.

According to the economist, it’s not easy to create enough jobs with the present level of infrastructure in Africa, particularly with regard to energy supply and transport.

Odusola noted that governance has a critical role to play in implementation of dedicated projects for the people in disadvantaged locations in order to transform their economic productivity.

“Africa needs to use knowledge and innovation to advance transformation that translates into human development,” he said.

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