Accra, Nov. 7, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Monday said African Countries' quest for higher and faster growth must be combined with a shift to more equitable distribution of incomes. He pointed out that greater inequality would only engender less social cohesion, increase in crimes and greater risk of political upheaval.
"The poor must be factored into our policies for growth". President Kufuor was addressing the Second African World Business Congress of the African Business Roundtable (ABR) at the La Palm Beach Hotel in Accra.
The ABR is dedicated to achieving an African private sector led regional economic integration and sustainable economic development based on good corporate governance and competitive open market system. The three-day congress is on the theme: "The Private Sector as the Engine of Growth and Wealth Creation."
President Kufuor said it was important for Africa to pause to think whether "the paths that we have taken since we became independent from the 1950s have led to growth.
"Unfortunately, our successes in achieving growth have been few and far between".
He said the major reason for this was conflict in terms of civil wars and military overthrow of Governments.
"Naturally a sense of insecurity would not serve as an encouragement for anybody or institution to commit itself to investment", he said. President Kufuor said apart from problems of weak infrastructure inherited from centuries of colonialism, public sector corruption, unwieldy business regulations and legislation, Africa was operating under difficult and unfair terms of trade.
"The tariff and non-tariff barriers, which our exports to the developed world have faced; have indeed been troubling. We have been forced to compete with products, which are heavily subsidised." He said what was refreshing was the fact that almost every Government on the Continent was undertaking market reforms to reduce the cost of doing business.
President Kufuor said the country had achieved impressive macro-economic stability in the last few years, with a consistent, albeit modest economic growth over the period.
"It is, however, clear that unless we experience rapid economic growth over the next few years, our aspiration of becoming a middle-income country by 2012 will not materialise."
President Kufuor said the Government's goal was to achieve sustainable, equitable and widespread private sector led growth by enhancing the competitiveness of the private sector and to reduce the risks and costs of doing business.
He said market reforms alone would not lead to the achievement of the ambitious targets set and propel the country to middle income status adding that it was for this reason that selective support to some areas of the economy was necessary.
President Kufuor noted that Africa now had new crop of leaders, who would take the Continent forward and asked for continued support and goodwill from development partners in tackling issues of debt cancellation, fairer terms of trade and support to build the infrastructure.
Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, said Africa needed to scale up and co-ordinate investments in public and regional goods, capacity building and resource mobilisation among other things. "This is important because though work towards delivering development to our populations had been going on in various forms and various levels in Africa over the years, the insufficient pro-poor content of the programmes and poor implementation arising from capacity and resource constraints limited their efficacy.
"The programmes were also not sufficiently co-ordinated at national, regional and continental levels nor did they enjoy global attention and commitment as they do now".
He drew attention to the need particularly for countries in the West Africa Sub-Region to work harder and to take advantage of available domestic and global opportunities.
Dr Bamanga Tukur, Executive President of the ABR, said Africa was fortunate to occupy the spotlight at major development forums drawing favourable attention to its development challenges by world leaders but pointed out that good intentions alone and promises would not ensure the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Pledges and commitments must be matched with delivery, he said, adding: "It is our belief that Africans cannot stand idly by and expect others from the industrialised rich nations or emerging economies of Asia to do our part."
He said Africa's development would only be realised if Africans themselves got involved and sought partnership of good intentioned nations and individuals for the benefit of all.