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Economic Commission For Africa Targets Improved Continental Growth, Development

Carlos Lopes
Writing recently in the Harvard Business Review, Jonathan Berman said Africa is more stable than many in the world have been led to believe.

And in another recent article on Africa, the Economist celebrates the continent which, except for some small outposts like Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is largely at peace, with its economy flourishing more than before.

Both articles talk up opportunities in Africa, the world’s fastest growing continent, with its largely youthful population counted as one of its greatest assets.

African leaders agreed at their last summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to do more to eradicate poverty, create employment and improve governance, among other issues, if the continent is to continue along positive growth lines.

All this as the continent takes stock and celebrates 50 years of Pan Africanism.

And among those tasked with the mammoth task of supporting the continent with sound technical advice on growth, development and related issues is the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Carlos Lopes, the new executive secretary of the ECA, says this is the time for Africa.

“Africa is living a very special moment, many even call it the African moment because we have moved from Afro-pessimism to enthusiasm, not just Afro-optimistic,” said Lopes in a recent interview.

“And the reason is because the drivers behind the transformation taking place in Africa are proving to be more resilient than anybody expected.”

Known for his boldness over the 24 years he has worked with the United Nations, Lopes recently told African leaders to embrace the rule of law and respect property rights as one way of attracting investment.

“The world may have its own particular interest in a rising Africa, but the growth that must matter for Africans is one that is primarily anchored on their interest and concerns,” he said.

“It must be driven by them on the basis of their priorities and should be capable of delivering structural transformation. It requires continued efforts to improve governance systems, strengthen state capacities, harness information and communications technologies, promote gender equality, and to mobilize the energy and creativity of Africa’s youth.”
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What must be new in Africa, he said, is the way in which strategies and policies are articulated to deliver a development outcome that produces an enduring and progressive transformation of Africa for the benefit of its people.

A respected strategist and socio-economist, Lopes, who has vast experience in capacity-building and technical co-operation on the continent, says the ECA is committed to putting Africa first and has developed a new strategic vision to ensure the ECA is a key player in the economic and social development agenda for Africa.

What remains to be seen is whether African leaders, whose Big Man syndrome has been blamed in the past for most of the ills afflicting the continent, will embrace Lopes and his colleagues who are working hard to transform the continent.