Africa registered a marginally better economic growth performance in 2007, but the continent is still far from achieving the necessary momentum to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015, according to UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Abdoulie Janneh.
Africa’s current growth rates need to increase to over 7 per cent annually in order to meet the MDGs, but the possibility of worldwide recession was a threat to the continent’s performance, Janneh said on Wednesday.
Opening the 27th meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Joint African Union (AU)/ECA Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Janneh said in 2007, Africa’s economic growth performance was 5.8 percent, compared to 5.7 percent of the previous year.
In addition, 25 countries achieved a growth rate of over 5 percent in 2007 while another 14 grew at over 3 per cent.
The ECA will next Wednesday launch the Economic Report on Africa (ERA) 2008 during the first session of the Joint Annual Meetings of the AU/ECA conferences of finance, planning, and economy ministers in Addis Ababa.
ERA is the key instrument through which African economic performance is tracked and assessed by the ECA and the AU Commission.
One of the main goals of the report is to identify policy challenges that African countries face and to suggest practical solutions.
“If the strong growth in other developing countries is affected by troubling economic conditions in developed countries, this may adversely affect African economies because a good part of their recent growth has come from commodity exports to emerging economies,” Janneh pointed out.
Another worry is that growth in Africa has not generated the quantity and quality of jobs that would help reduce poverty.
According to analysts, that was partly because the growth derives from capital-intensive extractive sectors and there has been very little value-added to export products.
Suggesting that Africa needed innovative thinking to tackle the persistence of poverty, Janneh said that in most countries efforts to address the scourge were concentrated on the economic and social spheres.
“Yet, there is strong evidence to show that enabling the poor to use the law to protect and advance their rights as citizens and economic actors is an important element in the fight against poverty,” he said.
The experts’ meeting and the forthcoming ministerial conference are being held under the theme, ‘Meeting Africa’s New Challenges in the 21st Century’.
Africa’s challenges include the effects of climate change, rising food and oil prices as well as how to strike the right balance between current food and energy needs on one hand, and potential future benefits from increased production on the other hand.
Meanwhile, AU’s Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Maxwell Mkwezalamba, has urged the experts to come up with options for African countries to absorb the adverse impact of rising food and energy prices, and exploit the opportunities that they present to the continent.
“The challenge facing the continent is how to promote sustainable growth and ensure employment creation,” he said, explaining that the world food shortage cannot be taken as a temporary phenomenon or a simple supply and demand dilemma.
Mkwezalamba explained that a number of complex and interrelated forces were behind food shortage, while agricultural production — connected to climate trends, declining water tables and fluctuations in the energy market — remained vulnerable to various shocks.
The AU/ECA joint conference of ministers will be held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, from 31 March to 2 April 2008, along with celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ECA. Panapress.