European and African policy-makers, economists and academics working on and with Africa, came together in Paris Thursday to discuss the performance of African economies and the major challenges faced by the continent.
The 12th International Economic Forum organized by the OECD Development Centre, in collaboration with the AfDB, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the UN Development Programme, and the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, gathered more than 500 participants (ministers and high-level representatives of the private sector, academia and civil society organizations) to look at ways to boost the job market as millions of youth get ready to enter the work force across the continent.
Panelists underlined the fact that neither the public sector nor the large private corporations active on the continent, can offer sufficient amount of jobs to create social cohesion and stability.
They expressed the need to support small business initiatives and facilitate access to financing to enable the youth to set up their own projects.
The AfDB highlighted its Souk At-Tanmia project launched in Tunis as a way to reduce unemployment and inequalities in underprivileged areas and said similar initiatives should be reproduced at a larger scale to encourage talent and creativity across the African continent.
Participants focused on the need to boost the agricultural sector in order to fill the unemployment gap. Issues discussed included how to make agriculture attractive to the youth who are increasingly urban bound and how to make rural areas appealing to them. Rural analysts explained that while new technologies do exist to improve agricultural productivity and make it a highly profitable sector, the lack of trained workers and overall lack of interest from the work force make it difficult to modernise the agricultural sector in Africa. Meanwhile the Vice-President and AfDB chief economist, Mthuli Ncube, announced that the next report on Economic Perspectives in Africa, which will come out in June 2013, will focus on structural transformation and the management of natural resources.
He added that Africa now urgently needs to restructure its economies to orient them toward growth and job-creation. He added that the ingredients to do so are well known: boosting agricultural production, providing assistance to small businesses, ensuring quality education, promoting private sector development, improving the investment climate and reducing gender disparities and regional inequalities.
The forum kicks-off a series of AfDB's engagement with partners through the month of October, as it develops 2013-2022 its long-term strategy designed to enhance its inclusive and sustainable growth agenda in the Regional Member Countries.