Nairobi — Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), yesterday participated in a panel discussion on building economic resilience for the most vulnerable at the 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development where he stressed that thinking on sustainable development needs to move away from a thinking of inclusion and preserving the environment as 'add-on' policies rather than being at the heart of economic policy.
Mr. Lopes emphasised the need to move beyond the ideal of 'not leaving anyone behind' and focus the discussion around which concrete policies were most likely to deliver results.
"We have been lazy in our thinking about poverty, and I am concerned that the focus on resilience risks returning to an era of focus only on policies that directly impact poverty and not the whole range of policies that influence it," said Mr. Lopes.
"We must go beyond simply saying 'leave no-one behind' because it makes us feel good and implement policies that make a concrete difference."
The ECA chief also talked about the importance of boosting agricultural productivity on the continent citing the transformational effect this has had on the Ethiopian economy for example.
"Services account for much more of Africa's GDP than agriculture, though agriculture employs more," said Mr. Lopes.
In addition, Mr. Lopes called for boosting intra-African trade, as well as measures to mobilise additional funds for investments such as further increasing tax receipts, which are already of substantial importance to financing for development in Africa.
"Domestic resource mobilization is going to be the key for the challenges that Africa has to undertake," said the ECA chief.
Also important for Africa, he said, is the need to reduce illicit financial flows, removing barriers to firms joining the formal sector, greater integration into international financial markets, making use of Africa's $400 billion in central bank reserves, mobilizing domestic savings for national priority investments and preserving African Governments' freedom to pursue the fiscal policies of their choosing.
This, Mr. Lopes continued, would certainly go a long way towards uplifting the continent and improving and safeguarding the lives of the most vulnerable as well as everyone in society.
UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Joakim Reiter opened the discussion, stating that 900 million people still live below the poverty line in the world.
He called for more targeted interventions to help the vulnerable as well as boosting their productive capacities and a focus of sustainable and inclusive growth, not economic growth per say.
Other participants noted the estimated $28 trillion that would be added to the global economy would make a difference if full gender equality was achieved.
They also highlighted the importance of regional integration, especially of power and telecommunications infrastructure, of a revival of industrial policy, including ensuring hiring on merit, infant industry protection, support for small and medium-sized enterprises and not disrupting existing community-based models of social action, such as providing schools at village level.
Participants also noted the potential for Government campaigns encouraging buying locally.