High level panel on drivers, opportunities and lessons for Africa’s integration
Professor Paul Collier, one of the world’s most influential development economists, warns that Africa’s “easy decade”, of accelerated economic growth is coming to an end, and only accelerated job creation and integration will ensure sustainable growth and development across the continent.
Prof Collier, who is a Professor of Economics and Public Policy in the Blavatnik School of government at the University of Oxford, was delivering a keynote address at the African Economic Conference 2018, hosted in Kigali, Rwanda.
He was speaking Monday 3, December at a high-level panel on “drivers, opportunities and lessons for Africa’s integration”, which engaged experts as well as high level policymakers on reflections and perceptions on regional and continental integration.
“Africa’s easy decade is over; the last decade of African growth is not sustainable. Now Africa must focus on its big resource – its young people. No other continent has anything like a huge influx of young labor. Productive jobs are the priority,” he said.
“Young labor doesn’t create priority jobs by itself. Those jobs have to be created, so the prime task of policymakers in Africa over the next decade is that you have to do the things that enable masses of productive jobs for young people to be created at a rate that has never been seen before.”
Prof Collier added that connectivity between African countries will unlock the potential of many countries, and this connectivity has to be in terms of both physical transport and political ideology.
“If you are a small country, you must absolutely be open otherwise you are doomed to be poor. And yet, a typical African country is very small and closed. That is a disastrous combination. So the CFTA is a hugely important step forward,” he said.
Another high level panelist, Professor Ademola Oyejide, the Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Ibadan and Chairman of the Centre for Trade and Development Initiatives, noted that regional integration must be empowered to drive overall continental integration.
“We should not destroy regional economic communities by protectionism and unnecessary barriers to trade. We as African leaders are not designing regional programs on the context of the theories that we have developed and yet we expect gains from the regional blocs,” he said.
Professor Klaus Zimmermann, President of the Global labor Organization, added, “Africa is now on the right path and has to move in the direction of the CFTA which was agreed earlier. One of the most important playing cards is its people.”
A common message from other high level panelists, such as Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie, the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation, was that governments must put in place policies to enable their countries achieve economic diversification and move away from the dependence on primary commodities.
The African Development Bank pledged full support to the Continental Free Trade Area, as part of its strategy to help Integrate Africa.
The Bank invested more than $20 million over the past five years to support the building of the institutional and human capacities of the Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat.
The Continental Free Trade Area is expected to boost intra-African trade by up to $35 billion per year, creating a 52% increase in trade by 2022; and a vital $10 billion decrease in imports to Africa.
In addition, The African Development Bank Group runs its Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA) Strategy (2016-2025) aimed to support African countries in overcoming youth unemployment and underemployment.
The goal of the strategy is to create 25 million jobs for African youth over the next decade and to equip 50 million youth with employability and entrepreneurial skills.