Hundreds of African leaders will be joined by scholars, economists, and private industry leaders as the 7th African Economic Conference gets underway in Kigali, Rwanda, October 30 through November 2.
The African Development Bank, (AFDB) along with the Economic Commission for Africa, (ECA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), organizes the event every year.
This year’s theme is “Inclusive and Sustainable Development in an Age of Economic Uncertainty.”
Emmanuel Nnadozie is the chief economist and director of the Economic Development Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. He says the main focus of the conference will be ensuring that the current economic situation does not prevent African countries from being able to generate growth and development
“We also hope that through the conference we will be able to promote knowledge. It is a very important ingredient in development, in policy making and in planning and implementation. Also, to think about how to encourage and enhance research on economic and policy issues that are important for African economies,” explained Nnadozie.
Nnadozie said that before the recent economic crisis that began in 2008, Africa was growing at above five percent on average for almost a decade. Once the economic downturn began, African countries could no longer attain that level of growth.
“The most important thing is that African countries did not record the same level of economic growth that one could have seen in the United States, in Europe, and some other parts of the world. But instead they were able to actually withstand the effects of the economic crisis much better than many other parts of the world,” said Nnadozie. He added that he and other economists look to see Africa get back as soon as next year to the same level of growth it had before the economic downturn.
Another focus of the conference will be the high unemployment rate among Africa’s growing youth population.
“The challenge that African leaders are facing is that the private sector, which is the number one employer in every economy, is not expanding large enough to be able to absorb the number of young people who are getting into the labor force. On the supply side, because of the inadequacies in some of the educational systems, young men and women are graduating without the relevant skills that are needed in the market. They may not be employable,” explained Nnadozie.
The conference is also expected to address how to best develop and harness Africa’s wealth of natural resources—an area that could also improve Africa’s employment rate.
Nnadozie said if one begins with Africa’s natural resources, then one asks oneself the question: how can we add more value to create a sustainable economy?
To listen to the entire interview, click on audio.