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International confab to discuss African economies in Accra

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Policymakers, African experts, and researchers are meeting in Accra on May 10-11 to discuss opportunities and challenges related to economic development, urbanization and industrialization on the continent.

The conference, “Understanding Economic Transformation in Sub- Saharan Africa,” is jointly organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the University of Ghana

A statement said although agricultural growth remained crucial for economic expansion and poverty reduction on the continent, countries also needed to boost urban industrial growth in order to achieve sustained economic development.

“Economic growth ultimately stems from rising productivity within different sectors of the economy and directing a country’s limited resources, including its labour force, to increasingly productive activities,” said Margaret McMillan, Deputy Director of IFPRI’s Development Strategy and Governance Division.

“African policymakers have a critical role to play in fostering this transformation and ensuring that economic growth ultimately improves the health and wellbeing of a country’s citizens,” she said.

Conference participants would share highlights from case studies in Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda.

They will also present cross-country analysis, including lessons from economic transformations in Latin America and Asia, and discuss the policy implications, particularly with regard to national development strategies.

In recent years, Sub-Saharan Africa has achieved impressive rates of economic growth, including solid growth in agriculture.

Many countries are also urbanizing rapidly and investing in infrastructure, such as roads. These investments, along with the remarkable spread of mobile phones, are helping to connect the rural poor with each other, as well as with urban centers.

Despite these changes, the continent still depends heavily on primary exports and industrial growth has been slow. Unlike the historical experiences of many countries in Asia and Latin America, urbanization in Africa has not led to rapid growth in manufacturing, which is so critical to a country’s economic success.

“Ghana is a case in point,” said Robert Osei, senior research fellow, University of Ghana. “It is one of the most urbanized countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the few on track to reach the Millennium Development Goals, having nearly reduced poverty by half in the past 15 years.

He said despite these achievements, the country still struggles to attain sustained economic growth and its manufacturing sector has actually been shrinking.

According to research to be shared at the conference, economic transformation in Ghana and other Sub-Saharan African countries has not enhanced growth.

In fact, in many cases, labour has been moving from relatively more productive sectors to less productive ones, placing a break on economic growth.

Although the reasons for this are not entirely clear, weak or nonexistent industrial policies are most likely part of the problem.

“Industrialization and increased economic productivity, like economic growth itself, is not an automatic process,” explained Professor Dani Rodrik, Harvard University.

Source: GNA

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