Yaounde — "Africa's story told to the rest of the world is one of risks and conflict but a lot of people don't know that at this time conflicts account for 5 million deaths in Africa, but they account for 200 million deaths in Asia," Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, told journalist in Cameroon as he ended his first working visit to that Gulf of Guinea country this week.
According to Mr Lopes, who is also a United Nations Under-Secretary General, it was incumbent on the media to change that biased narrative and move on to show the world the right perspective about Africa, whom is said was awash with resources, opportunities and the potential. The continent has some of the world's greatest proportions of untapped minerals and 60 per cent of the world's unused arable land.
Simply the right enabling environment needs to be created to tap theses resources to benefit the continent, starting with its own industrial revolution. Such a revolution should emphasise agricultural transformation, agribusiness and value addition in a range of sectors. "When you concentrate on exporting just raw materials to the outside world, you are exporting jobs in sectors that produce value addition", he said.
Another important area to focus on would be infrastructural development. The African continent presently has a $200 billion infrastructure deficit, Mr Lopes said, while evoking the need for a series of financial vehicles to be developed to help address the problem. A notable vehicle in this regard, he said, was the African Development Bank's Africa50 Fund. Such vehicles would help Africa tap its vast energy potential, especially from renewable sources.
Increased energy supply would support the continent's industrialisation and create avenues for beneficial intra-African trade, ECA's Executive Secretary, argued. He said given that two-thirds of Africa's growth came from consumption, the creation for value addition through industrialisation would provide opportunities for more trade between African nations and result in more meaningful growth.
According to Mr Omer Mbadi of Jeune Afrique, Mr Richard Kometa of Cameroon Tribune, Mr Rapael Mvogo of Xinhua News Agency and Mr Jean David Mihamle of BBC Afrique, the discussion held with Mr Lopes was very rich and based on evidence. The four journalists and most of their colleagues who had the chat with Mr Lopes concurred that ECA's new approach to helping tackle Africa's problems from a solely evidenced based platform was the way to go for development institutions working in the interest of the continent.