10 May 2014

Africa: WEFA - Education, Job Creation, Others Key to Africa's Prosperity

Africa's prosperity could be attained if solutions are urgently found to the issues underlining the inequalities and pervasive poverty undermining the attainment of its potentials.

This was the consensus of the panelists on post-2015 development at the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa, WEFA, on Friday in Abuja.

The panelists who noted that no fewer than 15 out of the 20 countries that made the most progress in the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, are in Africa, said solutions must be found to the issues of inadequate education, job creation, industrialization and security to accelerate Africa's growth.

Even though the discussants, including the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, agreed that Africa is rising and moving on a fast lane, they noted that the inequality and pervasive poverty was undermining the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs and compromising the future.

"Education, job creation, infrastructure development, industrialization and adequate security are the pillars upon which to build the prosperity of the continent," they said.

According to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, the continent has failed to focus on the inequalities among the countries in the region.

"The quality of growth we are delivering must be improved upon. We must look at sectors where we can include more people. Agriculture is three times more effective at lifting people out of poverty than any other sector. More attention should be paid to agriculture to achieve inclusive growth," she said.

For the Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, Daniel Duncan, recovering from the ravages of a civil war and looking to the future with ambitious education and modernization plans for its agriculture sector is helpful to its development.

Noting that South-East Asia's and Latin America's success in the 1970s was driven by investment in education, Mr. Duncan said the gender question is important.

He said a five-year programme, in partnership with the private sector, was expected to create 2.4 million jobs for the people, adding that by 2040, Côte d'Ivoire is projected to be an industrialized nation.

The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, who was also among the panelists said Senegal was pursuing a path towards universal primary education, with a 95 per cent enrolment rate aimed at helping achieve the education MDG by 2015.

"My country has invested a lot in this as it is a cross-cutting issue that goes beyond yield and productivity," Mr. Sall said. "The country is now industrializing its agriculture sector," he added.

The panelists were debating on the achievements to date on the MDGs and whether the MDGs aligned with the African Union's Agenda 2063 aimed at ensuring prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny.

The Chief Executive Officer, Unilever, United Kingdom, Paul Polman, noted that the MDG of halving poverty has been achieved, as 15 out of the 20 countries that have made the most progress on the targets were in Africa.

"Growth must be sustainable. We have the opportunity to design the growth here and not make the mistakes we made before," Mr. Polman said. "We need capability-building to get to this enormous future," he added.

Pan-African infrastructure, he said, would open intra-African trade, stimulate manufacturing and boost exports, adding that the bigger the trade zones, the better for the people.

The Undersecretary-General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA, Addis Ababa, Carlos Lopes, noted that one of the MDGs, which was to build a global partnership for development, including an open, rule-based trading and financial system, was not realized.

According to him, discussions on the issues of transformation and industrialization have always brought to mind inclusiveness, with human capital as a part.

For Founder/Managing Director, Binthily Communication, Mali, Birama Konaré, the fight against poverty and starvation was the most important goal, as Women and children are still starving in the streets.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged security as a complex ecosystem that is paramount to accelerating the Africa's growth, adding that the continent has come a long way to establish democratic means to express disaffection.

"These are evil times," she said, alluding to the high insecurity situation in Nigeria, which culminated in the abduction of over 250 girls in a school in Chibok in Borno State.

Noting that both U.S. President, Barak Obama, and U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, recognized that terrorism is not about Nigeria alone, Mr. Lopes said the "world needs to stand as one and say we will not allow this to undermine Africa's progress."


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