ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, July 16, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa has praised Africa's resilience in the face of daunting development challenges, urging governments to make technical preparations and organize accordingly where negotiations are involved.
“Our positive spirit continues to be manifested in the face of global economic crisis which is impacting on flows of official development assistance”, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh told the opening session of the 21st Ordinary Session of the African Union Executive Council in Addis Ababa on Thursday.
Mr. Janneh said his time at the helm of the ECA had been dedicated to accompanying “the African moment, promoting regional integration and supporting our member States to address emerging challenges”, according to ECA's Information and Communication Service.
Mr. Janneh has served as Executive Secretary of ECA since 2005 and as he prepares to retire, voices have been raised across the continent hailing the consensual approach he adopted in dealing with regional development issues during his stewardship at the Commission.
“Given the diversity of actors and stakeholders working to support economic and social development in Africa, we were particularly cognizant of the need for strong, credible partnerships to promote coherence, avoid duplication and ensure results in the delivery of services”, he recalled.
He took a broad look at the continent's performance during this period and highlighted significant progress in areas as varied as governance, development planning, regional integration, youth development and job creation, women empowerment, intra-Africa trade, climate change adaptation and mitigation.
He said the continent has grown appreciably since the turn of the Millennium with notable resilience during the Great Recession.
“Growth last year was relatively good although affected by the revolutions in North Africa and our revised figures show that GDP grew by 3.4% in 2011”, he said, adding that the initial expectations for this year were for stronger growth but that this outlook has been dampened by developments in other part of the world.
This could be explained by the banking and sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone, which he said “continues to cast a dark and worrying shadow on the world and in particular on Africa...”
He regretted the fact that there appears to be no agreement on appropriate policy solutions in the Eurozone, despite the fact that Europe has better statistics and more evolved institutional forms than Africa.
He said inspite of its potential, Africa continues to face formidable challenges of a global and regional nature but noted a “more optimistic and confident manner in which we now confront these challenges rather than adopting the stance of victims.”
He cited current efforts by African countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals despite being disadvantaged by lower initial starting points for the targets that were set. “Indeed, the scale of the effort is such that if the targets measured progress rather than actual levels, Africa would be leading in many of the indicators”, he said.
Mr. Janneh also had soothing words for Africa's performance on governance, especially as “the rule of law, democracy, elections, accountability and individual freedoms continue to be the main elements of the shared values of this Union and credible instruments like the African Peer Review Mechanism.”
“We can assert that the democratic processes in North Africa remain very much on course although the situation in Mali represents a major set-back.
Mr. Janneh spoke proudly of the increased collaboration between ECA, the African Union and the African Development Bank and the various joint flagship reports and activities underpinned by a fully-staffed Joint Secretariat Support Office.
He also mentioned the establishment of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa chaired by former President Festus Mogae of Botswana as proof of the emphasis Africa's development partners lay on the role of non-State actors in the provision of knowledge and services to promote African development.
“While coherence in delivery was an important element of supporting Africa's improving economic prospects, we maintained the important focus of tackling health challenges and bringing the full potential of women to bear on the development process”, he explained.
He reported that ECA and other partners had also “sought to accompany the African moment by supporting our member States to undertake development planning through the prism of the youth challenge and job creation, utilizing the demographic dividend.
“This effort has been supplemented by well-structured courses at the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning which has been repositioned and revitalized and which also now offers courses in other key areas like natural resources management and land policy”, he added.
He highlighted the importance of science, technology and innovation for development and the establishment of Science with Africa as a forum for interaction between African scientists and policymakers.
Last March, the African Innovation Prize was launched to encourage innovation in the continent and the first prize worth $100,000 dollars was awarded.
He called on the newly High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa to come out with concrete recommendations about how to stem such outflows which increased four-fold between 2002 and 2008 to reach an all-time high of $520 billion in 2011.
The Panel was established by African Ministers of Finance and is chaired by Mr. Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa. Proponents hold that these substantial resources are being illicitly transferred out of the continent whereas they could have been available to fund development programmes in Africa.
“In a similar vein, we are now paying closer attention to the Governance and Harnessing of Natural Resources for Africa's Development, which is the theme of the eighth African Development Forum taking place in Addis Ababa this October”, he announced.
Looking forward, he drew attention to the fact that global processes will inevitably impact on political and economic governance in Africa; which means that global developments and their impact on Africa have to be continuously monitored.
He said he is pleased for the opportunity to have contributed to African development agenda and urged the Council to continue to keep a watchful eye on the inextricable link between peace and security, governance and economic progress and to act firmly against any developments that hold us back in these areas, he concluded.