Key challenges and opportunities for effective expansion of trade for inclusive development were discussed in depth in a plenary session of the seventh African Economic Conference on Thursday, November 1 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Among the prominent speakers featured in the panel were South African Economic Development Deputy Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize and Ali Chebbi, Advisor, Office of the Tunisian Prime Minister. The presentation examined the influence of trade shares in the global and African economy, and how they can better contribute to boosting employment and driving growth.
One issue raised was what could be done to minimize disproportion between developed and less developed regions, and spur inclusive growth in Tunisia. In his analysis, Ali Chebbi documented the rise in unemployment in Tunisia over the past decade. He described the likely causes of this increase and analyzed whether the increase in unemployment is due to the need for structural changes in the economy or due to political change.
He concluded that the former was more likely. His analysis highlighted several key constraints to addressing unemployment in Tunisia, including a liberalized and diversified economy, educational reforms and skill matching. Furthermore, the current government has increased its investment budget, to provide youth in regions lacking in infrastructure with access to schools, banking and health facilities. He said strengthened investments in rural infrastructure, as well as financial inclusiveness, will bring structural changes in Tunisia.
Building on practical experience with Asian countries, South African Economic Development Deputy Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize featured her country's trade strategy. In the long run, she said, an African economy built on trade can open up new opportunities for South-South businesses, support greater levels of trade, and generate growth. Conversely, a weaker Africa presents a host of threats to the continent's future growth and prosperity.
She suggested that African countries needed to learn from each other and also from the experience of the BRICS, through enhanced political and trade partnerships. She also highlighted that Africans should take advantage of the weather in terms of agricultural and environmental innovation, invest in manufacturing, and further involve youth by giving them the tools they need, and train them to have the mindset of a trader. Development of finance must also be implemented, she said.
Advancing trade that builds on these ideals would not only promote Africa's own economic interests, it would help protect more of the world's poor from slipping back into extreme poverty.
Expanding trade is a critical element required for effective and sustained inclusive development, as well as economic growth and human development, especially as African countries are developing initiatives on reforms, several conference participants observed.