In a year of high-level discussions on the challenges faced by Africa, the annual International Forum on African Perspectives brought together eminent personalities from African and OECD countries. The aim was to engage a wide audience –comprising government, the private sector, civil society and the media– in debate, sharing visions and proposals for the economic development of the Continent.
The morning session focused on general economic perspectives for Africa. Henock Kifle’s (Chief Economist, African Development Bank) introduction noted that in 2004 African economies as a whole registered their highest growth in almost a decade (over 5 per cent), and that 2005 and 2006 should be as good, or even better. However, given that growth was largely due to high oil and metal prices, good results in agriculture and more aid, the question remained whether enough had changed for growth to be sustained and turned into long-lasting improvements in the lives of Africans.
Agreeing that aid could not be the answer, several speakers found encouragement in steadily prudent economic policies in Africa. Soumaïla Cisse (President of the Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union) stressed that governments would have to reinforce Africa’s competitiveness by investing in their people. Omar Kabbaj (President of the African Development Bank) underlined the fact that donors could help with constructive criticism.
Looking at donor behaviour, Kiyo Akasaka (Deputy Secretary General of the OECD) said that aid used to prop up unstable or undemocratic regimes in the interest of short-term humanitarian needs was counter-productive and counter to overall development goals. Responding to questions from the audience about the fragmentation of aid policies, Athanassios Theodorakis (Deputy Director-General, DG Development, European Commission) welcomed the move towards budget support as an important change in support of African ownership of aid programs.
The afternoon session dealt with the issue of the continent’s private sector development. In his introduction, Pierre Ewenczyk (Coordinator of the African Economic Outlook) reminded participants that limited access to financial resources continued to impede the diversification of African economies and their fight against poverty. Paul Derreumaux (President, Bank of Africa Group) argued that the lending policies of international and regional financial institutions ought to be more supportive of business, and that African governments could play a much stronger role in making the private sector a motor for growth. Pierre Jacquet (Executive Director, Strategy Directorate, Agence Française de Développement) underlined the need for aid to help build capacities and finance infrastructures, whilst Elizabeth Littlefield (CEO, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) welcomed the growth of microfinance institutions as a promising contribution to poverty alleviation.
Organised annually by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the OECD Development Centre, the Forum included an introduction to their 2004-2005 African Economic Outlook (AEO) report, an annual independent update on the economic and political situation in 29 African countries. The new AEO attracted an animated discussion in the Forum’s “questions and answers” sessions, with many participants applauding its neutrality in assessing questions of African development.
9:30-10:00 Registration – tea/coffee
Introductory remarks by Ambassador Basílio Horta, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the OECD & Chair, OECD Development Centre Governing Board
Opening Statement by Omar Kabbaj, President, African Development Bank
Opening Statement by Kiyo Akasaka, Deputy Secretary General, OECD
I. 2005: Challenges for Africa in the International Context
Chair: Omar Kabbaj, President, African Development Bank
10:30-10:50 Highlights of the African Economic Outlook 2005
Presentation by Henock Kifle, Chief Economist, African Development Bank
African economies have just registered their highest overall growth in eight years - more than 5 per cent in 2004 - thanks to high oil and metal prices, good results in agriculture and prudent economic policies. Growth in the next two years should be just as high, or even better. But can it be sustained and lead to long-term improvements in the lives of Africa’s populations? And what can trade partners and donors do to help?
10:50-12:10 Panel Discussion
Soumaïla Cisse, President, Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)
Athanassios Theodorakis, Deputy Director-General, DG Development, European Commission
Graham Stegmann, Director 2005/Strategic Adviser to the Management Board, Department for International Development, United Kingdom
Richard Dowden, Executive Director, Royal African Society, United Kingdom
12:10-13:00 Questions & Answers
II. Financing Africa's Development
Chair: Louka T. Katseli, Director, OECD Development Centre (Speech)
15:00-15:30 Highlights of the African Economic Outlook 2005 focus on financing the development of Small and Medium Enterprises’
Pierre Ewenczyck, Co-ordinator, African Economic Outlook (presentation)
Private sector development is widely regarded as essential in the fight against poverty in Africa. Along with a general lack of private flows to the continent, limited access to financial resources, especially for small and medium enterprises, continues to impede the sector’s diversification. Several innovative proposals have been put forward. How can they be turned into action?
15:30-16:15 Panel Discussion
Aicha Ennaifar, Director, Directorate General of Industrial Strategies, Ministry of Industry, Energy and Small & Medium Enterprises, Tunisia (presentation)
Pierre Jacquet, Executive Director, Strategy Directorate, Agence Française de Développement, France
Paul Derreumaux, President, Bank of Africa Group (presentation)
16:15-16:45 Tea/coffee break
16:45-17:15 Panel Discussion (continued)
Elizabeth Littlefield, CEO, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) pr
Martin Abega, Executive Secretary, Groupement Inter-patronal du Cameroun (GICAM) (presentation)
17:15-18:00 Questions & Answers
Donald J. Johnston, Secretary General, OECD
Brigitte Girardin, Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophony, France (concluding remarks)
More presentations will be added on this website as they become available.
For more information please contact the Forum secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org .
African Economic Outlook 2004/2005 - What's New for Africa?
Policy Insights No.6:African Economic Performance in 2004: A Promise of Things to Come?
Policy Insights No.7: Financing SMEs in Africa
Policy Insights No. 8: Energy and Poverty in Africa