Panel comments on economic, political, and social developments in African countries over the past year
Washington, D.C., May 22, 2008 – Africare President Julius E. Coles was invited to join a panel chaired by Congressmen Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and Donald M. Payne (D-NJ) to comment on the recently released, seventh edition of the African Economic Outlook (AEO). The panel also included Peter Lewis, Director of African Studies and Associate Professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies; Franklin C. Moore, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Africa Bureau; and Peter Ondiege, Research Economist with the African Development Bank (ADB). The 2008 report, co-authored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Center and the ADB, is produced annually to provide an analysis of the economic, political, and social developments in 35 African nations over the previous year.
The 2008 AEO marks the first year that the African Development Bank has been the lead partner in the production of the report, underlining the fact that the AEO is the only report written about Africa by African institutions. The AEO delivers in-depth coverage of economic progress from both an aggregate and national level. This unique insight is invaluable to decision makers, supplying them with year-to-year and country-to-country coverage with which to make informed policy decisions.
The special theme for this year’s report is technical skills development. The primary focus on elementary school educational development in Africa over the past decade has resulted in neglect at the higher levels. Now, attention must be paid to training young people in skills that lead to employment and reliable incomes. With a 20% unemployment rate (53.2 million young people) and a 50% illiteracy rate (some 133 million young people) in Sub-Saharan Africa, the 2008 AEO stresses the need to promote vocational education and training in order to increase employment potential and expand economic growth throughout the continent.
Despite a 5th consecutive year of over 5.5% GDP growth in Africa, Julius Coles cautioned that this figure does not tell the whole story. Widespread poverty continues to plague economies across Africa. He stressed the need to make more resources available for increasing agricultural production and echoed the theme of this year’s report on the need for more skills training to reduce unemployment. Speaking about the role of non-governmental organizations, Coles said, “NGOs such as Africare and Opportunities Industrialization Centers International (OICI) have important roles to play, not only in helping communities carry out skills training, but in promoting self-sustaining growth.”
Africare is a leading non-profit organization specializing in African aid. It is also the oldest and largest African-American led organization in that field. Since its founding in 1970, Africare has delivered more than $710 million in assistance and support — over 2,500 projects and millions of beneficiaries — to 36 countries Africa-wide. Africare has its international headquarters in Washington, DC, with field offices currently in some 23 African countries.