Accessibility links

Africa's Job Experts Seek Better Infrastructure, Integration

  • Zoumana Wonogo
  • Nico Colombant

African government ministers, bank officials and experts have met in Burkina Faso to discuss job creation, but have come up with few specifics.

Nigeria's finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told VOA that governments must improve infrastructure to attract private investors, the only way she says there can be job creation.

"We've got to raise our resources on the continent to invest in basic infrastructure and other areas," said Ikonjo-Iweala. "In order to enable the private sector to invest you have to have what they need which is really infrastructure."

During opening comments Tuesday at a symposium on job creation in Ouagadougou, the executive-secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Abdoulie Janneh, says money is needed.

"The commission for Africa estimates that Africa's infrastructure development would cost $20 billion a year," said Janneh. "In the light of this, there is a need for the World Bank, for the African Development Bank and other multilateral agencies to scale up their support for the development of Africa's infrastructure."

But there were also discordant views. The host, Burkina Faso's development minister, Seydou Bouda, says mismanaged money has been flowing in and out of Africa for decades, and that what is needed are better ideas.

"The problem is not money," said Bouda. "If you have good ideas and a good project you can mobilize funding for that. The reality is not about money but using money, managing policy, leadership and other matters."

He believes more emphasis should be put on labor intensive public works. Other experts said more youths should be encouraged to remain in the farming sector, rather than becoming unemployed in cities.

The new president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, stressed the importance of regional integration.

"Very soon we shall be one billion Africans, one billion Africans. Our markets individually are very small, some of them less than $1 billion. It seems to me that regional integration which has been policy for the last 40 years of independence now has to take off seriously," he said. "That requires policy changes, we are making progress, [but] there has to be greater policy harmonization. Time has come to begin acting on bringing down Africa's physical barriers."

Some experts said statistics on labor should be improved, but others said the unemployment problem should be fixed first, before worrying too much about numbers. Others talked about curing the so-called "Dutch disease" referring to Dutch colonial practices, and turning African economies away from commodity export dependence to more labor intensive sectors.

Nigeria's finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the stakes were high, as she believes wider employment would cure many of Africa's problems.

"If we create jobs, that's really the essence, that's the only way. Trying to depend on social safety nets alone is not sufficient. You also have to let people work. You have to let them have jobs," she said. "That's what the essence of fighting poverty is really about."

Ministers also said they were trying to organize a new heads-of-state summit on job creation before the end of the year.

XS
SM
MD
LG