Magazine article New African

Resources Are the Key: The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Held Its Annual International Economic Forum on Africa in Paris under the Theme "Harnessing Natural Resource Wealth for Economic Transformation", and Concluded That Natural Resources Are the Key to African Growth. Stephen Williams Reports

Magazine article New African

Resources Are the Key: The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Held Its Annual International Economic Forum on Africa in Paris under the Theme "Harnessing Natural Resource Wealth for Economic Transformation", and Concluded That Natural Resources Are the Key to African Growth. Stephen Williams Reports

Article excerpt

The 2013 Organisation for Economic Co-operation's annual International Economic Forum on Africa attracted a stellar group of African thinkers and commentators who discussed the pivotal issue of "harnessing natural resource wealth for economic transformation", and many of the other diverse matters that relate to this theme.

Angel Gurria--the OECD's secretary-general--described Africa within the new global economic landscape, paying tribute to the "remarkable dynamism" many of the continent's economies have demonstrated over the past decade. But Gurria also issued a warning over Africa's widening inequality, and the "ticking time bomb" that is youth unemployment.

Many might question whether the OECD was really the appropriate forum for a discussion regarding Africa's resources, for the OECD is often viewed as something of a "rich man's club" of nations, tied to the apron strings of the West's economies. However, a more balanced assessment of the OECD would recognise the important work that this organisation undertakes, and particularly the contribution that its Development Centre makes to the development dialogue.

Under the guidance of its ebullient Italian director, the economist Mario Pezzini, this division of the OECD works closely with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); the United Nations Development Programme; the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP); and others--for example in producing the African Economic Outlook report. This report is invaluable in that it collates and analyses the data relating to Africa's economic development.

The opening session of the Forum, moderated by Richard Attias, the Moroccan-born organiser of The New York Forum in Gabon, drew together Angel Gurria with the prime minister of Cote d'Ivoire, Daniel Kablan Duncan; the president of the AfDB, Donald Kaberuka; and Carlos Lopes, executive secretary of UNECA.

These four gentlemen were asked to consider whether the faltering recovery of the major advanced economies, a slowdown in the average growth of the developing world, renewed fears over the world's financial stability, and uncertainty over Africa's terms of trade, indicate danger signals for the continent.

Perhaps suggesting that those factors that are beyond the control of Africa are really not relevant to debate, PM Kablan Duncan referred to the continent's human resources as being Africa's greatest assets, and just how important it was to fully recognise this.

Duncan made a further announcement on the sidelines of the Forum to confirm that Cote d'Ivoire would be issuing CFA 7-year bonds to the value of $1bn, further evidence of the resilience in African markets even in those countries so recently afflicted with conflict.

The AfDB president, Donald Kaberuka, made the point that for stability and continuity in economic development to be possible, "the role of institutions is critical, the state being one of them. In Africa, the dismantling of the state, during the period of 1MF-induced structural adjustment programmes, was catastrophic".

But tuning in to the theme of the proceedings, Kaberuka added: "We must get it right in Africa and must use natural resources to do it. But countries that do not have abundant natural resources should not be condemned to failure."

With a little gentle steering from Attias, the role of the Asian economies, and how they relate to Africa, was discussed. The executive secretary of UNECA, Carlos Lopes, made a fascinating point about how well Asia manages its public relations. "Think of piracy in the Straits of Malacca, and the situation in Kashmir and Myanmar as well as the elections in Vietnam. Asia is very good at marketing itself, and Africa is not."

Lopes continued: "There are two untruths which you often hear. Firstly, that most of the economic growth in Africa has been generated by natural resources. …

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