Africa’s leading finance and development experts are discussing policies that generate employment opportunities

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African Experts representing finance, planning and economic development ministries in African countries started their deliberations yesterday in Lilongwe (Malawi) on how to achieve a high quality growth, through employment-focused development policies, in the wake of the economic and financial crisis.

ECA-AU Joint Press Release No. 24/2010

Discussions are taking place from 25th to 28th March 2010, within the context of the Meeting of the Committee of Experts. This session precedes the third Joint Annual Meetings of the African Union (AU) Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. The ministerial meeting is being held this year under the theme: Promoting high-level sustainable growth to reduce unemployment in Africa.

In his address to the Committee of Experts, the Finance Minister of Malawi Mr. Ken Edward Kandodo stated that: “Economic growth can result in increased countries wealth, but the poor may not necessarily contribute to, nor benefit from, if the growth is not all inclusive”.

The labour market is one of the areas where this disparity is most felt in African countries. The increase of growth rates over the last decade does not seem to have created many jobs. Africa’s region still has the highest vulnerable employment rate-up to 77% in some parts of the continent- among development countries. The stagnation of the unemployment rates over the last three decades clearly shows the limitations of African development policies.

The challenge for Africa’s experts gathered in Lilongwe is therefore to come up with development strategies, promoting an increased investment in labour-intensive sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, construction and textiles.”Overcoming Africa’s unemployment challenge requires innovation and commitment” stated the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA Mr. Abdoulie Janneh in his opening remarks. He added that «opportunities that exist in key sectors like agriculture, industry and ICTs must accordingly be exploited to the fullest”. According to Mr. Janneh, creating jobs and promoting development across the board, also requires a change in the nature of the African State, with an improved capacity to deliver services, implement policies and to govern well.

Since 2008, the African Union Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa are jointly holding their annual meetings. The objective is to address the social and economic challenges facing the continent as one front. Key among these challenges is the multifaceted impact of the economic and financial crisis. The outbreak of this crisis has led to a more constraining environment, as evidenced by the massive job losses. Africa’s GDP growth rate has also declined from 4, 9% in 2008 to 1, 6% in 2009.

The Commissioner for Economic Affairs of the African Union Commission Dr. Maxwell Mkwazelamba underscored in his statement, the need for African countries to improve the domestic fundamentals and encourage regional integration. He indicated that:”the financial and economic crisis had illustrated the lack of diversification of production and exports which exposed our continent to severe adverse effects of shocks to global markets”. Mr. Nkwazelamba indicated that:” To diversify risks and achieve broad-based growth, we need to supplement our export orientation with strategies to promote domestic markets through public investment, promotion of small and medium scale enterprises “. He also advocated for an “increased flexibility of macroeconomic frameworks, by which fiscal and monetary policies are well coordinated to have their intended effect, rather than offsetting each other”.

In addition the theme of this year, the Committee of experts will address statutory issues, including the ECA Annual Report, the proposed biennial programme plan 2012-2113 and the business plan 2010-2012. The Committee meeting will adopt recommendations for consideration by the ministerial session which scheduled from 29 to 30 March 2010.

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