African Leaders Optimistic about Region’s Development

African leaders, policy makers and stakeholders are optimistic about the region's development.

"In spite of the bruises, the continent, at the macroeconomic level, would seem to be pulling out of the crisis in a better shape than expected," said African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka at this week's African Economic Conference in Addis Ababa.

Kaberuka and other African leaders and officials met Nov. 11-13 in Ethiopia to discuss development challenges facing the region.

Participants recognized that action is needed if the region is to recover completely and develop sustainably.

Some conclusions: African leaders must have the political will to restructure and refocus their development goals. They should reconsider these goals to include pertinent global and regional issues: climate change, biodiversity, population pressure, poor governance and weak human capacity. Conference participants agreed on the need to strengthen the private sector, improve financial systems and boost investment in infrastructure.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi suggested attracting excess resources from the Gulf states and other Asian countries and investing these in key sectors. Zenawi also highlighted the need to have innovative climate change strategies.

"If the decision to tackle climate change effectively were to be made, then Africa with its vast sources of renewable energy - solar, wind, hydropower, bio-energy - would have an important niche in the global market," he argued.

Meanwhile, Kaberuka highlighted the need to diversify the region's economies, stressing that after 50 years of independence, most African countries remain dependent on commodities. Kaberuka and Abdoulie Janneh, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa's executive secretary, highlighted the importance of creating jobs and of stimulating global demand for African products and resources.

Research and development took center stage at the conference, as well. Zenawi, in particular, urged political leaders to strengthen the link between research and productivity, and enlist academia when designing and implementing projects.

Emmanuel Nnadozie said the he shared the keynote speakers' optimism. The crisis in Africa should be seen as an opportunity instead of a problem, the African Economic Conference's director of trade, finance and economic development told U.N. Radio. This point of view, he said, would allow leaders to reevaluate their development policies and practices.

What about the impact of Africa's development on the international community?

Jean Ping, the chair of the African Union Commission, had a ready answer. He said the world could hardly miss an entire continent that is home to one-seventh of its population and with a market base of more than one billion people.

The 2009 African Economic Conference is the fourth in this series. It was jointly organized by the African Development Bank and African Economic Conference.

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.