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African Economic Conference Urges Inclusive, Sustainable Economic Reform

2 November 2012: Participants at the Seventh Annual African Economic Conference urged African leaders to support economic reforms that sustain growth and boost human development. In line with the theme for this year's conference, “Fostering Inclusive and Sustainable Development in Africa in an Age of Global Uncertainty,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark and other speakers highlighted the potential for inclusive, sustainable growth throughout Africa.

The Conference took place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 30 October-2 November 2012. Participants discussed strong economic growth for Africa in the context of high poverty rates and slow progress on education, health and job creation. Discussion focused on how to leverage natural resources to create economic benefits for ordinary citizens. Participants agreed that creating a diversified economy, implementing better social policies and promoting good governance and fair competition will help facilitate sustainable development in Africa.

In her remarks to the opening ceremony, Clark noted that recent years have been marked by crises, from extreme climatic events that contribute to hunger and famine, to the economic and financial crises. While achieving inclusive, sustainable growth within planetary boundaries represents a huge challenge, Clark stressed, this can be accomplished through strong leadership, a conviction echoed by other speakers throughout the conference. Clark called for deliberate policy measures and targeted investments to “make growth not just fast but also inclusive and sustainable.” She said human development is a key priority in advancing inclusive and sustainable development in an age of global economic uncertainty. Clark also highlighted the role of youth and women in contributing to economic transformation and sustainable development throughout Africa. She described youth as a source of creativity and innovation, and recommended investments in youth skills development in the agricultural, logistical, manufacturing and processing sectors. She said equal rights to credit, inheritance, property, and tenure can help women reach their full potential. Clark also recognized the role of legal empowerment in driving economic empowerment, citing a recent decision by the Botswana High Court to overturn a customary law that prevented women from inheriting family homes.

At the closing session, Mthuli Ncube, Vice President, the African Development Bank (AfDB), said Africa “has the potential to become the next emerging market by the end of this decade,” if political, social protection, quality education, private sector and regional integration are implemented.”

The African Economic Conference, which was attended by over 500 participants, is a joint initiative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and UNDP. [UNDP Press Release] [Statement of UNDP Administrator] [African Economic Conference website]