Kigali — The 49th Annual Meetings for the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the 40th Meetings of the African Development Fund (ADF) opened in Kigali yesterday with a discussion on Africa's growth and the way forward to sustain growth and transformation.
At the first session, representatives of the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), an economic policy institute based in Ghana, presented their report entitled "Africa 2014 Transformation Report: Growth with Depth".
The three-year extensive research program of country, sector and thematic studies report presented the state of economic transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa, lessons learned from African countries and selected comparators from Asia and Latin America, and how this transformation can be sustained for the long run. It offers analyses and lessons that can be tailored to each country's endowments, constraints and opportunities, developed in collaboration with think tanks of 15 African countries.
Mr Yaw Ansu founder and president of ACET, showed that African economies need more than growth; what was needed was growth with depth, meaning diversifying production, making exports competitive on the international market, increasing the overall productivity of farms, firms and governments and upgrading the technology that is used throughout the economy, which will result in overall improved human well-being in Africa.
Tapping from China's experience, Mr. Justin Lin, former chief economist and senior vice-president of the World Bank, showed that Africa has a unique opportunity to learn from China's successes and failures. One of ways to sustain this transformation, according to Mr. Lin is Africa's comparative advantage of natural resources, cheaper labour and relative young population among other significant drivers.
Infrastructure development was also identified as an important component of the continent's transformation.
Africa needs better data to track progress:
In another session "Tracking Africa's Progress," participants said that many African countries had significantly scaled up their data collection efforts, but challenges remain with regard to the timely dissemination of the data to users.
The Banks Statistics Department Director Mr. Charles Leyeka Lufumpa said statistics has become a pressing challenge given Africa's progressive rise in growth and global standing.
Mr. Lufumpa shared data on African economies said the continent's five top economies - Nigeria, South African, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco - take the largest part of Africa's GDP, while the smallest economies - Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Burundi - take less than 1% of the Africa's GDP. "Africa's share in the global economy has grown slightly from 4.5% in 2011 up to 5% in 2013. Africa is now the fourth region in global economy after it overtaking Eastern Asia."
Nigeria is now the biggest economy on the continent after the ongoing exercise of GDP re-basing by some African countries. Angola the most expensive, while countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania have the general lowest prices on the continent. In particular, Ethiopia and Uganda have the cheapest food prices.
"This comparison is used to measure the sizes of our economies, as well as the households' welfare. It's useful in tracking our progress because it helps us harmonize our economic policies in our regional integrations," Mr. Lufumpu said.
Speaking on the importance of statistics, Yusuf Mago Murangwa, Director of Rwanda's National Institute of Statistics said "many African countries don't give statistics the importance they deserve". He stressed that having statistics and not disseminating them, not exploiting the important data collected was a lost opportunity and made it difficult to justify the cost of collecting and producing the data.
Mr. Murangwa explained that African governments should put more effort in producing accurate numbers, because "policy makers and business partners need the data to help them identify opportunities. In Rwanda we are committed to collecting statistics and disseminating them to decision makers in order to accelerate the country's economic growth."
More than 3000 delegates are attending the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to discuss new strategies to tackle poverty, underdevelopment, and put their weight behind global negotiations to ensure the continent enters a new era.
This year is also the 50th Anniversary of the Bank.