With the right policies and linkages, Africa can become an indispensable global economic hub, Singapore’s Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted Tuesday, commending the continent’s diverse economic potential.
Delivering this year’s Kofi Annan Eminent Speakers’ Lecture series at the African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Shanmugaratnam outlined five strategies which must underpin the continent’s transformation drive and efforts to build inclusive growth.
Africa must spread its economic openness by strongly showcasing specialisation along the production value chain and invest more boldly in social foundations. The continent must also maximise policy coherence and effectiveness, think in the long-term and maximise the benefits of global financial system, Shanmugaratnam told diplomats, students, government representatives and senior Bank officials gathered in the Babacar Ndiaye auditorium.
The lecture, the third in a new series, organised by the African Development Institute, had the theme: “Inclusive Growth: Learning from Experience, Partnering for the Future How Africa and Asia can work together for broad-based prosperity.” He was accompanied by senior government officials from Singapore.
“There are challenges, but there are also opportunities. There is much more to be done,” said Shanmugaratnam who is also Singapore’s Minister for Social Policies and a former deputy Prime Minister.
In order to build economic resilience and create job opportunities for their bulging youth population, there must be stronger connectivity and economic interaction among development nations, especially between Africa and Asia which share demographic similarities.
“We are in an unusual time globally – a time of unusual challenge where some of the basic beliefs of how the world prospect together are being challenged. But it’s also a time of immense opportunities… in the international economy, in international finance and in international cooperation,” the minister stated.
In the next decade Africa is expected to have the largest working age population in the world, larger than China and India with about 1.1 billion people of working age population of between 15 and 64 years.
Shanmugaratnam said African leaders must prepare to take advantage of the strong bulging workforce, coupled with the high mobile technology penetration to drive innovation for growth.
In his welcoming remarks, Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina noted that Africa could learn a lot from Singapore. He described Mr Shanmugaratnam as someone with expansive knowledge who was chosen because of his inspiring works in the Asian nation.
The Eminent Speakers’ Lecture Series was launched in 2006 and has been a forum for sharing insights on development challenges in Africa. It has since attracted a wide range of speakers including four last year.