African Ministers of Finance to meet and discuss industrialization, diversification and COVID-19

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) says preparations for the 53rd session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development of the Economic Commission for Africa are at advanced stages.

The annual conference which brings together the continent’s ministers of finance and economic development will meet from March 17 to 23, 2021 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to hold discussions on the theme “Africa’s sustainable industrialisation and diversification in the digital era in the context of COVID-19”.

In a press release copied to, the ECA says the theme recognizes the continent’s desire to industrialize and create jobs for the millions of its people, particularly the youth.

Commenting, Stephen Karingi the ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division Director says with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) now up and running, the theme comes in handy, offering ministers and experts a platform to discuss the need to ensure that digitalization strategies are integrated into policy and planning frameworks for industrialization.

“The AfCFTA comes in handy during these difficult times where the continent is fighting COVID-19. It is crucial that our governments establish institutional arrangements for cooperation on the digital economy, and provisions to support digital capacities and industrialization and connect African businesses,” he said.

According to the ECA, the main element of this year’s theme is the recognition of the need for African countries to achieve rapid economic growth without exacerbating the environmental cost of development. It indicates further that the theme calls for an alignment of development strategies with climate change mitigation measures, recognising that industrialisation while being an effective engine of growth for many developed countries, has come at a severe cost to the global climate.

The ECA points out that African countries will need to implement development strategies that recognise that better, safer and more inclusive growth is one that involves strong climate action and efficient use of natural resources.

The theme also recognises that Africa’s developmental path must minimize the aberration of developed nations and instead seek to embrace modernization through digitalization and less climate-costly industrialization activities, it notes.

The ECA acknowledged the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected Africa’s economy pushing it into contraction, for the first time in more than 20 years, by an estimated 2 to 5.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020, and the fact that it has further highlighted the need for accelerating Africa’s digitalization.

If emerging digitalization can be scaled, it could be transformational, helping Africa to sustainably industrialize and diversify within a global digital economy estimated to be worth more than $11.5 trillion, it said.

It adds that deliberations at the conference will centre on how countries can leverage the rapid technological innovation to foster stronger economic growth and promote sustainability and inclusiveness, against the background of the urgent action that is needed to offset the impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s economies and economic trajectory.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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