Addis Ababa — The 2020 edition of the African Economic Conference (AEC) opened virtually on Tuesday with calls for the continent's policymakers, researchers, development partners, and champions of policy change to design solutions to ensure Africa builds for the future in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the annual meeting, with the theme; Africa beyond COVID-19: acceleration towards inclusive sustainable development, senior officials from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) agreed that Africa's key challenge now was how to build better and return the continent to the path of sustainable development.
"To this end I trust your research pieces will provide innovative solutions and insights for policymakers. I am confident that Africa has a variety of best practices and lessons garnered from confronting this pandemic to share with the world and improve the welfare of our collective well-being in this interconnected modern space," ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, said addressing academics and young researchers selected to present their solution-oriented research to policymakers and decision-makers at the conference.
She added, "We are looking forward to your deliberations over the next three days, to share your analytical perspectives, findings and more importantly, how African countries can build back and forward better, avoiding the pitfalls that COVID-19 has brought to the surface. No time has it ever been more important to focus on Agenda 2030 and the goals as they are laid out ahead of us than now."
Speaking on behalf of AfDB President, Akina Adesina, Hanan Morsy, Director of the bank's Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research, said for its part, the African Development Bank, working together with regional institutions, was committed to building a resilient and forward-looking health defence system for Africa.
"The current pandemic provides the opportunity to test and improve the region's response and adaptation capacity. As knowledge of the virus evolves, Africa has to learn fast and increase its resilience, converting knowledge into policy research and the resulting operational guidance," she said.
Speaking about how the AEC has become a tradition on the continent, the UNDP's Ahunna Eziakonwa said it's a place where the ECA, the AfDB, the UNDP and the African Union Commission bring together leading economists to tackle key development issues on the continent.
"It is a true place of excellence and scholarship which has over the years proven pivotal in finding solutions for the Africa we want," she said, adding African women and youth were waiting for the game-changing African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to begin and change their lives.
One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was the address by Ethiopian President, Sahle-Work Zewde. She urged Africa to tap into "our time-honoured pan-African values in addition to solutions based on conventional analysis" in responding to COVID-19 and to build forward better.
President Zewde stressed that "Africa's responses and plans for building back better on this COVID-19 pandemic towards a sustainable development trajectory need to have gender considerations at their core. It is with pleasure that I note that within this African Economic Conference, space has been provided for showcasing African women towards leadership and recognising women's role as policy designers and proponents, rather than simple beneficiaries."
The 2020 edition of the AEC, jointly organized by the AfDB, the ECA and the UNDP, takes place virtually from 8 to 10 December.
Since its inception in 2006, the conference has fostered dialogue and the exchange of knowledge covering various issues and challenges that has faced Africa.