MediaGlobal (New York)

17 May 2013

Africa: With a Booming Economy, Africa Looks to Re-Brand

The United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) and African Union (AU) recently launched the "Economic Report on Africa 2013: Making the most of Africa's Commodities," written by Carlos Lopes, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of UNECA, and Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, Commission Chairperson of the AU.

One main component of the report is the move toward a new "branding," an Africa that is industrialized and developed, not plagued by poverty and flooded with conflict. With its economical growth increasing each year, the continent is now able to embark on a new frontier where adding value to the country's own commodities and resources could result in a flourishing internal economy.

"For about 20 years we have been debating industrialization without anything important happening. Now we are saying, 'Enough is enough,' but you do not just proclaim it, you demonstrate what kind of policies and recommendations will do the trick," Lopes tells MediaGlobal News. "That is what the report is all about."

A 2011 analysis by the Economist showed seven African countries on that publication's 10 fastest-growing economies list; each country had at least an 8 percent growth rate. The UN report also had hope for the continent's medium-growth prospects, with goals of 4.8 percent in 2013 and 5.1 percent in 2014.

"Now that we have the robust strategy and a well-conceived plan that is realistic, theory can be set aside," M. Sajo Jallow, the Permanent Representative of Gambia to the African Union, tells MediaGlobal News. "We need to leapfrog and go forward and make sure we have actions that will give us results."

Though the majority of Africa's workforce is employed in the agriculture sector, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported that 239 million people were starving and an estimated 100 million living in poverty throughout the continent. Because of the high demands of an increasing population, goods are often imported from outside countries, creating trade deficits and forcing dependence on outside relationships.

"America is only 8 percent agriculture and can feed the majority of its people, while Africa is 70 percent and we cannot feed our people," Jallow tells MediaGlobal News. "A document like this is saying the old paradigm needs to change.

Lopes states that agriculture will not be overlooked in the process for industrialization; it produces a large amount of soft commodities within Africa, essential on the journey for the continent's transformation.

"Adding value to our already available commodities is something that has been downplayed for years," Jallow tells MediaGlobal News. "The fact that you can add value to what you already produce is something that can help us move closer to development."

Jallow also notes that Africa holds 65 percent of the world's diamonds, but lacks the ability to polish them. Therefore, the raw diamonds have to be shipped to other countries in order to have a finished product.

In Western and Central Africa there are an estimated 2 million small cocoa farms that produce 70 percent of the world's cocoa supply. However, due to outdated farming technology and techniques, farmers are living low-income lives on low-yield farms.

"We are no longer a colonial post where people come and extract, this has been responsible for the state of Africa until now," says Lopes. "We can no longer have relationships based on colonial purposes. The responsibility is Africa first; we are talking about the last frontier of growth and development."

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