6 March 2019

ECA-WB Workshop Focuses On Jobs and Economic Transformation in Africa

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Addis Ababa — The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the World Bank on Tuesday hosted a Roundtable Workshop on Jobs and Economic Transformation to further the dialogue on employment creation and economic transformation in Africa as part of the International Development Association (IDA) replenishment process.

Partners meet every three years to replenish IDA funds and review IDA's policies. The most recent replenishment of IDA's resources - IDA18 - was finalized in December 2016, resulting in a record replenishment size of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) 53.5 billion ($75 billion) to finance projects over the three-year period from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020.

The funding enabled IDA to scale-up development interventions to tackle conflict, fragility and violence, forced displacement, climate change, gender inequality; and promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation in the world's 75 poorest countries.

The workshop focused on three topical areas; digital transformation, trade and global value chains, and human capital for jobs.

"These are some the critical areas of opportunity for many countries to accelerate economic transformation," World Bank Vice President for Development Finance, Akihiko Nishio, told participants, including representatives of borrower countries from each IDA region.

"We need your help to validate if we got these priorities right, and within each area, how we can best organize and target our support to be the most useful."

Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, said the IDA19 replenishment cycle provides an opportunity for partners and borrower countries to deepen the discussion on issues facing IDA countries.

She emphasized the need for good policies on the continent that can sustain shocks and promote economic transformation; creating enabling environments for private sector to operate and create much-needed jobs; digital commerce; financial and capital markets; industrialization; and data.

"We still have a dearth of data on the continent and it is because of weak data that sometimes we make the wrong polices," Ms. Songwe said, adding Africa needs to up its game to get it right for its youthful population.

"We need to create quality jobs and we need to do it now. We need to find ways to do that."

Ghana's Trade Minister, Alan Kyerematen, said economic transformation that is based on industrialization was crucial for Africa's sustainable development.

"Focusing on macroeconomic stability only is not enough. We shouldn't emphasize the macroeconomic only. It's not a sufficient condition if it is not accompanied by economic transformation," he told World Bank officials.

Aïchatou Boulama Kané, Minister of Planning of Niger, emphasized the importance of IDA19 in helping African countries deal with priority areas of job creation, agricultural production; economic transformation and related issues.

Zambia's Central Bank Governor, Denny Kalyalya, said private sector has a crucial role to play in helping transform Africa's economies.

"Discussions today have showed that there is more that still needs to be done. Our governments need to create enabling environments for the private sector to create the quality jobs we desire on the continent," he said.

Antoinette Sayeh, Co-Chair of IDA19 Replenishment, said there was need for more ambition across the board to ensure there is economic transformation with decent jobs being created for the continent's youth.

"As we do all this work we need to make sure that we do not lose focus of the long-term," she said.

"We need to do better on the quality of growth we are recording and keep high growth rates if we are to succeed. Some of our countries are not doing well at all and need help to better manage their natural resource wealth which can help in the economic transformation."

Africa has made noticeable progress in economic transformation in recent years, but at a pace not sufficient enough to create much-needed jobs and reduce poverty substantially hence the discussion.

IDA19 will be held in Addis Ababa in June.

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