Nations Urged to 'Stop Digging and Exporting' Africa's Raw Materials

3 December 2019

Sharm El Sheikh — Economic transformation remains the surest and most sustainable channel through which jobs can be generated for Africa's growing labour force. That's according to Adam Elhiraika who heads the Macroeconomics and Governance Division at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

"We need to transform our economies and stop digging and exporting raw materials because at this rate we will never meet the continent's need for an estimated 10million jobs annually," said Mr. Elhiraika

Speaking at the 2019 African Economic Conference (AEC2019) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on 2 December, the ECA director stressed that Africa needs a "new vision that's home-grown and can help us add value to our commodities and enable us to compete globally."

Part of this new vision, he added, is "already articulated in Agendas 2063 and 2030, and is geared towards transforming and industrializing our economies."

Mr. Elhiraika emphasized that regional integration and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are "a must" for a prosperous Africa.

"We used to read textbooks that tell us that African countries cannot trade among themselves because they have similar economic structures. But today we are proud to say, for example, that South Africa is the main trading partner for all countries in Southern Africa just as Kenya is the main trading partner for all countries in East Africa and so on."

Against this backdrop, he urged countries to get serious about economic diversification and value addition, integration, and bringing the $1.2 billion continental market to fruition, especially given its potential for sustainable job creation.

The African Economic Conference is jointly organized by the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the ECA. Since its inception in 2006, the AEC series has fostered dialogue and exchange of knowledge on a variety of issues and challenges facing Africa.

AEC2019 took place in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh from 2 - 4 December 2019 under the theme "Jobs, Entrepreneurship and Capacity Development for African Youths."

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