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The African Economic Conference is urging African governments to put governance at the center of their agenda. The conference that gathered researchers, policy makers, civil society and private sector leaders was held in Addis Ababa this week at the United Nations Economic Conference for Africa.
“Governance, as we all know, determines which public policies get adopted and how they are implemented. There is a growing consensus that African countries require a more conducive governance environment for them to be able to pursue better public policies and ultimately to achieve better outcomes, including structural transformation and inclusive development,” said United Nations Under Secretary General and ECA’s Executive Secretary Dr Vera Songwe during the conference’s opening session.
The theme for this year’s conference is, “Governance for structural transformation” and according to Songwe, bringing the two concepts together to constitute the theme of this conference is very deliberate notably because of their centrality and importance in moving our continent forward towards the development trajectory envisioned in both the 2030 development Agenda and Agenda 2063.
“Governance and structural transformation can be said to be mutually re-enforcing. On the one hand, good governance and effective institutions are prerequisites for the attainment of structural transformation.”
“On the other hand, structural transformation can have a strong disruptive effect on governance (particularly political governance) – giving rise, for example, to interest groups that push for accountable leadership and effective institutions. As countries get more transformed, more effective institutions also become more affordable. Over time, economic transformation can advance core governance objectives of accountability, participation and transparency,” Songwe said.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn who officially opened the conference also underlined that Structural transformation as related to the national development agenda is all about the path to and achievement of industrialization. This goes from securing productions and markets to including an equitable mechanism of fairness in spreading the wealth.
“In this regard, there are theories and experiences of recent success, such as those of the East Asian region, Africans can refer and look into for better lessons. It is true these late industrializations did not have the conventionally prescribed and over promoted neoliberal governance capabilities when they started it, or even at later time during their unprecedented massive economic transformation. It does not mean, though, these countries did not have governance qualities of other kinds,” the Prime Minister said.
“In East Asia and other successful developmental states, massive transformation was brought about through an effective and successful centralization of economic rents and allocating them to value-creating sectors and actors,” he said.
The three-day annual event, organized jointly by the African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), brought together over 500 participants consisting of government officials, researchers and many other development actors. International leaders, authorities in the field of governance research, were also present.