Marrakech, 20 March 2019 (ECA) – “The Government of Morocco has done a wonderful job” in laying the ground work for the kick-off of the 52 nd Session of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said Giovannie Biha – Deputy Executive Secretary of the Commission to international media practitioners gathered in Marrakech for the session.
She said the theme of the event which is ‘fiscal policy, trade and the private sector in the digital era: a strategy for Africa’ was very timely for African member States to appropriate as the time was running fast to finance and execute UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for a peaceful, prosperous and integrated continent.
While fiscal policy was crucial for raising member States’ capital to finance the infrastructure and create the enabling environment necessary for sustainable development, the private sector was central to the kind of manufacturing/ value addition in goods and services that would create jobs and stimulate higher levels of intra-African trade, she argued.
A good handle on digitization would facilitate all of these processes and build the much needed synergy for a better connected Africa, segued-in Lilia Hachem Naas, who heads ECA’s subregional Office for North Africa.
“Digital technologies would help establish more transparent, reliable and concrete methods to engender good fiscal practices that respond to Africa’s development challenges,” she went on.
“It is about encouraging complementarity among our member States and promoting South-South cooperation.”
The media were asked to watch out for the launch of ECA’s 2019 Economic Report on Africa , which unpacks the thematic concerns of this year’s Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (COM), as the annual ECA session is also known, on 23 March 2019.
Couched in the terms “Fiscal Policy for Financing Sustainable Development in Africa,” ERA 2019 posits that Africa’s best bet at mobilizing the revenues needed to drive its sustainable development in good time, lies in broadening and deepening its tax bases, improving tax administration, tackling tax avoidance, enhancing non-tax revenue collection, avoiding the pitfalls of tax exoneration schemes for foreign investors, shunning debt burdens with little return on investment and leveraging digital technologies for easy and cost-effective tax compliance.
Adam Elhiraika, Director of the Macroeconomic and Governance Division of ECA, whose department led in piecing together the report, told the press that Africa would need to move from its 3.2% growth record of 2018 to one of double digits to be on a clear pathway to achieving the transformation it seeks through Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.
Frantic efforts at mobilizing finances for development, are therefore essential toward this end.
But in this equation, “Africa has financial needs equivalent to 11% of its annual GDP and we cannot rely on external resources to bridge this financial gap but on domestic resource mobilization,” he argued, while stating that that sound fiscal policy was key to mobilizing such resources to invest in achieving development goals.
All three ECA officials noted the cardinal role that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) would play in fast-tracking the continent’s development as a stimulator of manufacturing, job creation and competition in value added goods and services.
Ms. Biha said she was confident that free trade would become reality in Africa with just two more countries needed to reach the ratification status of 22, statutorily necessary for the AfCFTA to become operational.
To Mr. Elhiraika, “we must see AfCFTA as a golden opportunity which must not be wasted but we [Africa] must have to depend more and more on our own financial resources” to make it work.
The press was urged to look at these connecting dots to make sense of various components of COM 2019 about which they would be reporting to the world in the days ahead.
Ms. Hachem Naas said Morocco’s hosting of the ECA Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, was a clear reaffirmation of North Africa’s connection with the rest of Africa.