|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference to Launch 2011 ‘Economic Report on Africa’
A larger role for the State was needed to ensure that the high growth rates of African economies translated into more jobs and less poverty for its citizens, two United Nations officials said today as they launched the 2011 Economic Report on Africa.
“It was a mix of good news,” said Robert Vos, Director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, at a Headquarters press conference. “The not-so-good news is that job recovery was rather weak and disappointing, to say the least.” Describing the increase in economic growth to 5 per cent as “positive but not enough”, he said unemployment had soared as high as 20 per cent in some North African countries. The continent’s sustained economic growth hinged on many risks and uncertainties, such as the spill-over from the political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, weather patterns and economic growth of countries in the developed world, he added.
Amr Nour, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Regional Commissions, noted that other regions of the world, such as Asia, had lowered their poverty levels through greater State intervention in shaping economic strategies. “The report advocates a stronger role for the State,” he said. “Yet the role of the State should not be at the expense of the private sector, but enabling the private sector.”
The 130-page report, produced by the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), shows that the continent posted an economic growth rate of 4.7 per cent for 2010, and was expected to reach 5 per cent this year, as it recovered from the global economic crisis.
Responding to a question about the views of Western financial institutions on the issue, Mr. Nour said the report was not urging a return to central planning, but advocating a partnership between government, the private sector and civil society in order to create sustainable economic growth for the African continent. “The perception of the role of the State changed after the financial crisis,” he noted, pointing to the giant economic stimulus package that the United States Government had used to jump-start the economy following the eruption of the financial crisis in 2008. “There is recognition of the role that the State can play with the private sector. The market by itself cannot address the problems.”
Mr. Nour pointed out that Africa had averaged a growth rate of 6 per cent before the global economic crisis, which had then dropped to 2.3 per cent in 2009.
Mr. Vos said that one of the upcoming challenges would be using Government strategies to help diversify each country’s economy beyond the traditional dependence on commodities and agriculture, and to build cooperation among stakeholders.
“These countries need a diversified economy,” Mr. Nour added. “This diversification has to be done consciously, and the Governments have to identify sectors for growth.” There was also great potential for intra-regional trade on the continent, he noted.
Mr. Vos said Governments needed to support the agricultural sector by providing the proper infrastructure and inputs to help them succeed. Industrial development programmes were also needed to help companies become more competitive. “The private sector can’t resolve these issues by themselves unless they are given the right signals by the Government,” he emphasized.
* *** *For information media • not an official record