Our future rests in our hands,” declared Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Mr. Haile Mariam Desalegn on Monday in his keynote speech at the opening of the Conference of Ministers at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.
Reflecting on harmonising and coordinating the different policies of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s own Agenda 2063, Mr. Desalegn urged African states to be “strategic, ambitious, rigorous and disciplined” if they are to achieve sustainable and inclusive development for their people.
The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Augustin Matata Ponyo, views government as having a crucial role to play in bringing about sustainable development.
“Many African countries are already on track with transforming their economies. The role of governments in Africa is to offer inclusive and sustainable development which is important in addressing climate change and economic growth.”
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, implored African countries to improve young people’s skills in science and engineering. “With an average of over 90% of graduates in social sciences, Africa’s innovation and scientific skills lag behind.”
She noted that with a burgeoning youth population, Africa has no choice but to look for solutions. Dr Zuma also spoke on industrialisation and economic diversification, on the need to reduce import dependency and on creating regional centres of innovation.
More suggestions on possible solutions came from Mr. Carlos Lopes, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, who noted “African current growth has not generated sufficient jobs and has not been inclusive enough to significantly curb poverty. Fluctuations in price has made such growth vulnerable.”
Therefore Africa should look into “structurally transforming, focusing on the potential offered by industrialization.” Mr. Lopes suggested Africa consider expanding commodities value chains, and attracting low-value manufacturing from Asia to Africa.
Mr. Lopes remarked that “transformation will not happen spontaneously but rather as a result of deliberate and coherent policies that are entrenched into a coherent development strategy, enlightened by a transformational leadership.”
Picking up on the theme of leadership, the Vice-President of Namibia, Mr. Nickey Iyambo, told the 800-strong audience “strong leadership is a prerequisite for fostering the continent’s development with healthy economies that grow and end poverty.”
He encourages African countries to learn from Namibia’s approach by cultivating the African spirit of self-reliance through a wise use of resources.
“Let’s take the torch in our own hand and develop our countries,” he said.
The Conference of Ministers is an annual event jointly organised by the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union Commission. The 2016 conference concludes on Tuesday.