African leaders open Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Integration with encouraging messages on economic transformation

auc“Our future rests in our hands,” declared Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Mr. Haile Mariam Desalegn on Monday in his keynote speech at the opening of the Conference of the African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Integration, holding today 4 April 2016 at the Conference Center of the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia .

Reflecting on harmonising and coordinating the different policies of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s own Agenda 2063, Prime Minister Desalegn urged African states to be “strategic, ambitious, rigorous and disciplined” if they are to achieve sustainable and inclusive development for their people.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, implored African countries to improve young people’s skills in science and engineering. “With an average of over 90% of graduates in social sciences, Africa’s innovation and scientific skills lag behind.”

“There is general agreement on the skills crisis that we face on the continent: shortage of skilled personnel is amongst the concerns raised consistently by business leaders as undermining competitiveness and confidence. Africa’s contributions to innovation, science and technology and patents lag behind; and in the study by the African Capacity Building Foundation on capacity needs for Agenda 2063, the skills deficit in key areas such as engineers, scientists, including agricultural scientists run into the millions.” underlined the AUC Chairperson. She noted that with a burgeoning youth population, Africa has no choice but to look for solutions.

Dr Dlamini Zuma also spoke on industrialization, agricultural development and economic diversification, the development of infrastructure (transport, social, energy ICT) among others. “Africa imports over 83% of the processed food it consumes, putting pressure on our foreign currency reserve. As we therefore continue to talk about the need to industrialise, what are we doing as Ministers of Economic Planning, Finance and Integration to reverse this situation, product line by product line and working together to build regional value chains?” The AUC Chairperson further called on the Member States saying, “as we deal with effects of extreme weather conditions, we must respond to the immediate humanitarian situation faced by farmers and rural communities, but at the same time not delay what should be done today to build resilience and climate smart agriculture”. She said this will help to reduce import dependency. (See complete statement of Dr. Dlamini Zuma on the AU website: )

Mr. Carlos Lopes, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, noted that “African current growth has not generated sufficient jobs and has not been inclusive enough to significantly curb poverty. Fluctuations in price has made such growth vulnerable.”

Therefore Africa should look into “structurally transforming, focusing on the potential offered by industrialization.” Mr. Lopes suggested Africa consider expanding commodities value chains, and attracting low-value manufacturing from Asia to Africa.

Mr. Lopes remarked that “transformation will not happen spontaneously but rather as a result of deliberate and coherent policies that are entrenched into a coherent development strategy, enlightened by a transformational leadership.”

Picking up on the theme of leadership, the Vice-President of Namibia, Mr.Nickey Iyambo, told the 800-strong audience “strong leadership is a prerequisite for fostering the continent’s development with healthy economies that grow and end poverty.”

He encourages African countries to learn from Namibia’s approach by cultivating the African spirit of self-reliance through a wise use of resources.

“Let’s take the torch in our own hand and develop our countries,” he said.

The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Augustin Matata Ponyo, views government as having a crucial role to play in bringing about sustainable development.

“Many African countries are already on track with transforming their economies. The role of governments in Africa is to offer inclusive and sustainable development which is important in addressing climate change and economic growth.”

The Conference of Ministers is an annual event jointly organised by the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union Commission. The 2016 conference concludes on Tuesday.