>From Gideon Sackitey, GNA Special Correspondent Abuja, Nigeria
Abuja, May 17, GNA - Dr Kingsley Y. Amoako, out-going Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), has bade farewell to the organization and African Finance and Development Ministers at their 38th Meeting in Abuja, saying it was a worthwhile opportunity working to change the face of poverty on the continent.
He was speaking at the closing session of the 38th Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Development in Abuja, Nigeria, which, for the third year running, has been held back-to-back with the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank. He noted the high disinterest associated with the conference of Finance Ministers some 10 years ago but the enthusiasm that characterised it now.
"Today our meetings have become a major item on many calendars and attended by almost all the Ministers of Finance, Development and Planning, the World Bank, IMF, OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) member states, donors and potential donors examining Africa's situation on African soil".
"The fact that these conferences now attract such a high level of participation and such frank and progressive discourse are a tribute first to the quality of the delegations from member States who choose to attend."
Dr Amoako who has been with the ECA in the last 10 years ends his term in June this year. During the period, he has transformed the institution into a world-class body, bringing it into focus with other "triple A" rated institutions such as the African Development Bank. The Conference under the theme: "The Challenges of Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)" was attended by about 35 Ministers, OECD states, World Bank, IMF, regional economic cooperation institutions and private financial experts.
He urged African countries to do all they could to achieve the MDGs, saying it was possible if the right notes were touched and both Africa and her development partners did the right things at the right times.
"Africa's leaders should work hard at their poverty reduction strategies through comprehensive and bold decisions that would ultimately transform their economies and make the plight of the poor a thing of the past," Dr Amoako said.
Addressing the media at the close of the conference, Dr Amoako explained that a number of countries in North Africa were on track to achieving some of the MDGs and therefore called for the exchange of ideas between such nations and those finding difficulty to identify best practices.
"We must do all we can to achieve the MDGs, of course, with the right political will and determination from all sides of the equation." On the subject of surmounting difficulties associated with Africa's inability to meet set targets, the outgoing ECA boss said African leaders needed to know why and how their predecessors failed to meet set targets and what could be done to overcome them.
He said the ECA worked assiduously to increase education, health, trade practices among others, stressing that a lot more needed to be done to bring the desired change and joy onto the faces of the people. Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's Minister of Finance who chaired the two-day Conference described the event as one of the most constructive gatherings in a very long time.
She said according to the UN figures, Africa was becoming the only continent unlikely to achieve the MDGs.
"Our meeting here in Abuja over the last two days sought to examine what we could do, what the donors should do and how we as leaders could hold ourselves accountable to the objectives of development," Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said.
"African states and the OECD countries all have a role to play. We therefore came up with specific suggestions on what the two could do." She said African Ministers of Finance now recognized and accepted that the burden to change Africa's desperate situation lay in the hands of the people.
"The blame game is over and we need to start to look at redefining our minds and goals and propel our countries and people to greater heights. We must develop second generation policies that would integrate development into all our efforts."
She said the Ministers also agreed to inculcate the MDGs into their national budgets and plot means of monitoring all of them. Mrs Okonjo-Iweala also called on African leaders to create a network of learning among their counterparts who had succeeded in one way or another in certain endeavours, instead of spending loads of money contracting so-called foreign experts or consultants who often had little expertise of the African terrain. 117 May 05