17th International Economic Forum on Africa - Opening remarks
Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría
Paris, Wednesday, 04 October 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
Vice-President Duncan, Prime Minister Youla, Commissioner Harison, Mr. Rioux, Excellences, dear colleagues,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the OECD for the 17th International Economic Forum on Africa. Today we will focus on the key role of Africa’s entrepreneurs in the continent’s industrialisation.
Allow me to begin by thanking the African Union and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) for their commitment and support in making today’s Forum possible. Since 2014, the African Union has partnered closely with the OECD Development Centre to organise this Forum; the AFD joins us now for the first time.
The African continent is returning to solid growth, but challenges remain
After a slowdown to 2.2% in 2016, our projections in the 2017 edition of the African Economic Outlook show that Africa’s average growth is expected to rebound to 3.4% this year and consolidate in 2018, expanding by 4.3% .
This rebound will make Africa the world’s second fastest growing region after Asia!
But the 5% growth rates of the early 2000s remain a distant memory for many African countries. Jobs have not kept up with population growth. More than 544 million people in 46 African countries are considered poor across multiple dimensions . And even in countries where growth has been high, it has not been sustainable and inclusive.
Supporting Africa’s agenda for industrialisation and entrepreneurship
Moving up global value chains is key to overcoming these challenges. And this is precisely why industrialisation is at the heart of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the theme of the 2017 African Economic Outlook and the focus of this year’s Forum. Yet, Africa will need to avoid the pitfalls of “dirty industrialisation” and, instead, leapfrog over obsolete technology and catapult itself into the new industrial age.
Africa needs to engage in the digitalization and industry 4.0 now. The advances in technology, from ICTs and robots to new materials, are changing the nature of production and creating new opportunities. The continent has shown it can rapidly adopt new technologies. Today for example, 222 million Africans have a mobile banking account, more than all other developing countries combined.
And behind Africa’s push for this new kind of industrialisation stands Africa’s entrepreneurs. They have the potential to create many of the jobs that will be needed to provide opportunities to the 29 million young Africans who will reach working age every year between now and 2030.
We need tailored solutions to unlock potential of entrepreneurship in Africa
Who are the entrepreneurs creating jobs in Africa? They are the small, the local and the young – each with their own opportunities and constraints.
In Africa, young, formal companies with less than 20 employees create 22% of new formal jobs, more than companies that are larger or older than 5 years.
Local entrepreneurs are best placed to harness the immense opportunities of booming domestic and regional markets. Just ask the finalists of our Video Contest to capture what it means to be an entrepreneur in Africa –you will meet the winner later today.
Not all African entrepreneurs, however, have the opportunity to take advantage of the growth in domestic demand that we are observing on the African continent. The constraints that young and small businesses face, such as poor access to infrastructure and electricity, lack of skilled workers and difficulties accessing financing must be addressed.
This calls for targeted policy approaches that address informality, fragility, and constrained business opportunities for the youth and women need to be put in place to help these opportunity-driven entrepreneurs grow. They could also benefit from skills training, mentoring by experienced businesspeople, from grant competitions, from exchanges within entrepreneurial communities, and from access to credit at competitive rates.
And while today we focus our attention on entrepreneurship as a driver for industrialisation in Africa, we should not lose sight of the three fundamental areas for action which I highlighted when I launched the latest African Economic Outlook in Berlin earlier this year. Africa needs the right policies, better infrastructure, and predictable public revenues.
In many of these areas, we are already working hand-in-hand with our African partners. For example:
- On policies, in April, we launched a strategic foresight report that will enable Africa to anticipate the unexpected and design better policy responses. The report “Social Protection in East Africa”, explores the interaction between demographics, economic development, climate change and social protection over the next 50 years. Such exercises are crucial for taking forward our other policy advice tools such as multi-dimensional country reviews, Social Protection System Reviews and our work on sustainable and climate-resilient growth and industrialisation.
- On the revenue front, eleven African countries have joined the OECD-UNDP Tax Inspectors without Borders (TIWB) Initiative and two more are about to join. This initiative is already delivering millions in extra revenue for African governments. On infrastructure, we have developed indicators to help governments monitor reforms that should help mobilising private investment. This will be crucial to close Africa’s infrastructure finance gap.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In all these areas and others, the OECD stands ready to work with Africa and for Africa as it designs, develops, and delivers Better Policies for Better Lives. Thank you!