Africare News Release
Africare President Participates in Economic Development Panel on Capitol Hill
Panel discusses economic, political and social developments in Africa over the past year
Washington, DC, June 18, 2009-- Today, 4 out of 10 Africans have a mobile phone line making Africa the fastest growing market in the world. This was one of the findings that were presented at the Washington, DC, Launch of the 2009 African Economic Outlook chaired by Congressmen Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and Donald M. Payne (D-NJ)
Africare President Julius E. Coles was invited to be a discussant on a panel that came together at the U.S. Capitol to discuss the recently launched report co-authored by the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) and the Development Center of the African Development Bank. The report, produced annually, provides an analysis of the economic, political and social developments in 47 African countries over the previous year. “The African Economic Outlook serves as a means for African self-empowerment as it provides a good basis for Africans to compare themselves,” Congressman Payne said in his introductory remarks.
Other panelists included John Bruton, Ambassador, European Union to the U.S.; Mr. Franklin Moore, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Africa Bureau, USAID; Dr. Peter M. Lewis, Director, African Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS; Dr. Charles P. Oman, Head of strategy, OECD Development Center; Dr. Leonce Ndikumana, Director, Research Department, African Development Bank; Jose Gijon, Head of Africa and Middle East, OECD; and Sala Peterson, Policy Results Officer, Africa & ME Desk, OECD Development Center.
The theme for the 2009 report is Innovation and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Findings show that the exponential growth of ICT is enabling many African users to gain access to basic services like education, health and banking for the first time. With access to such services, ICT has started a revolution in agricultural production and it was noted that agricultural-rich countries in Africa were doing better in economic growth than mineral-rich countries.
In addition, findings revealed that Africa has proven to be an innovation frontier by combining state-of –the-art technologies with local customs. For instance, Africa was the first continent to have mobile phone roaming services that allow customers to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services when traveling outside the geographical coverage area of their home network.
However, even with the innovative growth and development of ICTs on the continent, the global financial crisis greatly affected the results of the 2009 report. Africa had a forecasted economic growth of 5.8%; however, by May it had declined to 2.8% and now stands at 2.3%. In addition there was a decrease in the demand of export commodities and in the price of primary commodities. As growth deceleration means more poverty, this was an area of great concern in the analysis of the report. “There were three development issues before the [financial] crisis: how to raise growth, how to sustain growth, and how to increase gains for poverty reduction” Dr. Ndikumana said as he analyzed report findings. “Now with the financial crisis the critical challenge is that the growth crisis does not become a development crisis.”
Despite the gloomy economic outlook for Africa, Coles reminded the audience that it could be a lot worse. “Forty years ago Africa had an economic growth rate of -1%. The fact that they were able to pick themselves up and forge ahead shows the resiliency and maturity of the African people”