(Click to read part I of our re-cap of the African Economic Conference in Ethiopia.)
Economic world leaders convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the end of October to examine Africa’s capacity for promoting sustainable development to boost economic productivity, labor productivity, agricultural sustainability, and human capital development through green growth. The conference was titled “Green Economy and Structural Transformation,” and it was a joint effort of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Some conference findings included:
- There is a growing convergence between clean energy and carbon-based energy.
- Africa has established an economic model as a food importer and an energy exporter, with high transportation costs. Africa’s subsistence agriculture economy is based upon few cash crops that are being grown on depleted soil. Issues of land tenure, access to quality seeds of local staple crops, promotion of year-round agriculture, support infrastructure for farmers, improve technology (mobile phone micro-lending transfers), commercial agriculture development, and gender equality must be addressed.
- While bio-fuels are a growing clean-energy alternative, Africa may benefit from exploration in hydro and solar power, which need limited land infrastructure networks. Reducing Africa’s household carbon-foot print is key in reducing health risks related to kerosene and charcoal powered stoves. Overall, when considering Africa’s future energy needs, it would be best to not focus on large capital-intensive projects that would be outdated in 25-50 years time, but scalable projects that promote sustainable development principles.
- Structural transformation include investments, improvement of the quality of the work force (skilled labor), a business environment which promotes efficient allocation of resources and a competitive market. Education level is a major determinant of poverty levels, and capacity for green development and structural transformation.
- And how will this Green Revolution be financed? Léonce Ndikumana, professor of economics at University of Massachusetts, argues taxation is a good policy tool to be used for transformation. This assertion is questionable given the low tax base, inadequate house hold data, labor inefficiencies (skilled labor for unskilled vs informal sector market), and low or non-extensive income taxes.
- Oil needs not be a curse. Key issues include the breadth of services and efficiency, institutional innovation, structural transformation, distribution and equity, tax incentives (i.e. for entrepreneurship), efficient resource management, and non-traditional sources of development finance.
About the author: Over the past six years, Chevelle Dixon has worked in both the private and
public sectors focusing on the socio-economic development and empowerment of
disadvantaged people in urban neighborhoods. Chevelle graduated from NYU Wagner School of Public Service in 2010 with a Masters of Urban Planning (International Development specialization), and from Harvard University in 2007 with a joint A.B. in Economics and African Studies.