DAKAR, SENEGAL: Development of the youth, regional integration and industrialisation on the continent will be top of the agenda of African Development Week 2017.
The conference which started here this past Thursday is held under the theme, “Growth, Inequality and Unemployment”.
The conference, dubbed, the AU specialised Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration & the Economic Commission for Africa conference is attended by amongst other finance ministers from across the African continent.
Dr Ren├® Kouassi, Director for Economic Affairs, Commission for the AU, who welcomed the media and put them in the picture of the main issues and talking points of the week said that more than 50 years after independence, most African countries economies remain dormant.
“These are important areas of discussion for the continent, as growth has been weak, at a rate of only 0.5 percent. The drop in commodity prices has severely affected a continent reliant on its resources,” Kouassai told reporters in the capital Dakar on Wednesday.
The conference comes at a time when the southern Africa region is reported to be having the highest income inequality in the world. Botswana itself is also battling with high a level of unemployment and inequality.
According to a report published by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in 2014, Botswana is the fifth highest level of income inequality on the continent.
In early 2016, simulations by the World Bank showed that if Botswana continues growing the way it is, its income distribution is unlikely to improve in any fundamental way and may even further increase disparities that already exist.
On the other hand, job creation remains a key development challenge in southern African countries, particularly in Botswana. As it is, government is trying to diversify the economy while at the same time battling with rising unemployment.
It is unclear whether recent efforts will yield results fast enough to offset the impact of reduced diamond revenues, projected to fall off starting 2017.
Government documentation, however, shows that thus far, diversification has focused on export-oriented manufacture of textiles, leather, glass, and jewellery. Some of the projects such as the Palapye glass project have since collapsed while the much anticipated Leather Park in Lobatse is yet to come to fruition.
The projects were expected to create massive job opportunities for thousands of youth who are currently roaming the streets.
However, independent economic experts are of the view that manufacturing is not feasible for Botswana because of its high cost of inputs.
Meanwhile Finance and Economic Development Minister Kenneth Matambo was expected to be amongst the delegates at the Dakar conference which will be discussing sustainable development goals, which should be achieved not only by individual countries, but also by regional groupings, to make an impact on structural transformation.
Also addressing the media on Wednesday, Dimitri Sanga, Director of the AU Commission said ordinary Africans are not being given the tools to generate enough income to support their families. He said that personal income can only be improved by countries putting a greater emphasis on processing and industrialisation, while not neglecting efficient utilisation of their natural resources.
“The balance of trade for most African countries is in deficit as they import more than they export. Intra-African trade makes up less than 15 percent of the continent’s trade, and this trend needs to be reversed,” Sanga said.