ECA urges focus on improving human capital, science and tech education

UNECA-economic-commission-africaThe UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has urged African states to develop human capital and invest in science and technology for economic growth and development.

One of the ECA’s reports “Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VII: Innovation, Competitiveness and Regional Integration” (ARIA VII) launched on April 2 as part of the African Development Week, advances that while Africa has spent much of the past decade investing in physical infrastructure, it must not forget the development of human capital.

“Investing in education, particularly in science and technology, will bring about great gains for the citizens of the continent,” the ECA said in a statement.

According to the ECA, the seventh edition of the report, developed jointly by the ECA, the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank (AfDB), posits that profound regional integration can enable innovation to generate greater competitiveness and trade, boosting integration, growth and development.

“As countries grow in innovation capacities, they are likely to integrate even more with each other through investment, supply chains, trade, knowledge and mobility,” Mr. David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre at the ECA was quoted as saying.

The report states: “Innovation drives growth and structural transformation, and it offers unique opportunities to ‘late-developer’ countries to leap-frog into new technologies.  As innovative capacities grow, competitiveness is enhanced. ”

The Acting Chief Economist of the AfDB, Mr Charles Lufumpa, reportedly pointed out that while Africa’s regional integration has improved over the past five years, culminating in the formation of a tripartite free trade area, adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the AU’s Agenda 2063 and negotiations for the establishment of a continental free trade area, Africa can do better.

“A lot of progress has been made but we still have problems with energy shortages which pose serious constraints on businesses; lack of integrated infrastructure, and slow implementation of policy,” Lufumpa was quoted as saying.

Mr. Sidi Ould Tah, the Director General of the Arab Bank for the Economic Development of Africa reportedly said that the private sector was not given a role in the past, as an engine of economic growth.

“To foster innovation, the role of the private sector needs to be expanded,” he argued.

A representative of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Mr S. Kuppuswamy, said Africa can learn from other countries such as India, which has invested much in building talent for innovation.

Mr Tetteh Hormeku, Head of Programmes at the Third World Network Africa, was also quoted as saying: “It’s not enough to create markets, we must focus on developing capacity and talent.”

By Emmanuel Odonkor

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