Remarks by Angel Gurría,
21 May 2019 – Paris, France
(As prepared for delivery)
Mr. Vice President Duncan, Distinguished Ministers, Ambassadors,
It is a pleasure to open the Development Centre’s High-Level Dialogue with Africa. I would like to thank you all for being here for these topical discussions focusing on Africa’s economic transformation and the contribution of quality infrastructure and enhanced connectivity.
I would also like to thank the Government of Japan, and in particular Mr Taro Kono, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who cannot be present but is represented today by Mr Masahiko Kiya, Deputy-Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs and Ambassador for the Tokyo International Conference of Africa's Development (TICAD). Japan has been a key contributor in this Dialogue through the TICAD process.
Moreover, West African institutions contribute to the Sahel and West Africa Club. Many African countries participate in our work on international tax co-operation, natural resources, investment and trade and production transformation, as well as in OECD committees and instruments. This strong engagement reflects the dynamism of Africa and our recognition that we must address common challenges – from jobs to climate – together.
Indeed, the OECD’s engagement with Africa is concrete in many ways. It is focused on advancing common agendas, sharing experiences and supporting African solutions to African priorities, as well as the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Our strategy, in fact, is built around five priorities of Agenda 2063: domestic resource mobilisation; migration; education and skills; better statistics; and, of course, productive transformation and investment, including in infrastructure.
Today’s Dialogue focuses on empowering Africa’s economic transformation through quality infrastructure and enhanced connectivity. Looking ahead, delivering jobs to the millions of African youth entering the labour force every year will require greater investment, market integration and production transformation.
Already, 22 African countries ratified the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, triggering the implementation of the agreement. This will create new opportunities through a single continental market for goods and services. Now, the hard work of translating this agreement into action begins. Realising these opportunities will require better infrastructure and connectivity, better policies and better resources.
Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo stressed these issues when spoke here last October, and he called upon the Development Centre to work with the African Union and key African partners on infrastructure investment. Moreover, Japan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kono told me again last April how important it is to leverage this platform to improve our mutual understanding around quality infrastructure – a key theme of this year’s G20 Japanese Presidency.
The OECD stands ready to support Africa’s efforts through numerous strands of work. Let me highlight three that are crucial:
First, responding to the President of Ghana and to the G20, we will continue to identify and share good practices to foster quality infrastructure. Africa’s infrastructure investment needs remain substantial, estimated at between 68 to 152 billion dollars over the coming decade. In this respect, two-thirds of infrastructure investment to support urbanisation until 2050 remains to be done.
Second, at the African Union Summit in Niamey, we will be launching our report ‘Africa’s Development Dynamics’ which focuses on policies for productive transformation. We will be specifically discussing with African leaders ways to boost the capabilities of firms in Africa, developing regional production networks and ensuring that African firms have better market access. As such, I am glad that Egypt, the current Chair of the AU, will host the next Policy Dialogue on Global Value Chains (GVCs), Production Transformation and Development and undertake a Production Transformation Policy Review.
Third, we will deepen our work on domestic resource mobilisation and tax co-operation. Thanks to tax policy and administration reforms, the average tax-to-GDP ratio in Africa increased from 13% in 2000 to 18% in 2016. While most African countries collect proportionately less revenue than the Latin American average of 23% or the OECD average of 34%, some African countries have higher ratios than the average Latin American country.
The OECD-African Revenue Statistics report has become an international tool on enhancing fiscal systems and public revenues in Africa. In addition, an increasing number of African countries actively participate in the Global Forum on Exchange of Information and in the Tax Inspectors Without Borders – an initiative which is delivering concrete results: overall, additional tax revenues raised by developing countries through its programmes stand at USD 445 million. This is outstanding value for money: for every USD spent on operating costs, TIWB generates over USD 100 in additional tax revenues.
Fourth, we will deepen our work on education and skills to help governments and private sectors better equip African youth seize job opportunities. Senegal and Zambia are participating in the PISA for Development in-school administration. Algeria and Morocco have confirmed for PISA 2021, and discussions are on-going with 11 other African countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Better connectivity and better infrastructure are both key to achieving Africa’s transformation. We are accomplishing so much through our collaboration and today’s dialogue is vital not only to take stock of lessons learnt, but also to keep charting the way forward.
The OECD will continue to work with and for you to deliver better policies for better lives, and I welcome hearing the outcomes of this meeting as another important step in our journey together. Thank you.