“Africa needs the will to grow,”-Dr. Vera Songwe (Economist)

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Africanews is celebrating its 5th anniversary this week. It’s been a long journey and an opportunity to look back at the world over the past 5 years and to project ourselves into the future. Ms. Vera Songwe is an economist and executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.

Ruth Lago (Africanews Journalist): Hello Madam, you have recently declared that African countries must define their development model, should we conclude that in the last 5 years there has been no progress in this direction?

Ms. Vera Songwe: Every time we talk about Africa we always have the impression that we are talking about a monolithic whole. We have more than 50 countries. We have made a lot of progress.

I think that there are countries that have adopted this information economy — especially in East Africa. We have made a lot of progress in Kenya, Uganda but also Ethiopia. But also in countries like Cape Verde, small island countries. We’ve also seen the industrialization of countries like Morocco — also because of the diversification of its economy.

Ruth Lago: The year 2020 with covid has had a definite impact on economies, what can we expect this year when the disease shows no sign of abating and economies are stretched thin/ feeling the pressure?

Ms. Vera Songwe: First of all, we can celebrate the resilience of African economies a little bit because we have not seen a total collapse of any of them. We can see that countries are coming out of it before we had a growth rate of 3.2% and I think everyone knows that Africa needs a growth rate of 8% and 10% so we should now put a little more effort into the recovery.

At the Economic Commission for Africa, we are campaigning for a green recovery, a more sustainable recovery of the economy. We have carried out studies that show that with a greener recovery, a green industrial recovery, we can create 450% more jobs in South Africa, 320% more jobs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries.

Ruth Lago: Let’s talk about plans for the next 5 years, what will Africa need?

The only way to open up our economies — to open them up peacefully, is to have a vaccine and to have vaccinated 60% of our populations. We hope that any African who has access to vaccines will take them because it’s very important. Secondly, I think it’s what we call enablers in French it’s having energy, access to energy, not access to energy for every house but access to energy for the industrialization of the continent.

But there is all this human capacity that we have to build. We have to create capacity for our young people to be able not only to use information technology but to create it and become captains of industry themselves. We have to create the capacity for our young people to be able to not only use information technologies but to create them to become themselves the captains of industry in the fields of information technology.

So the first thing is the vaccine, the second thing is infrastructure the roads, the energy. And the third thing is obviously to take advantage of (The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to open up our economies a little more, to have regional value chains that are strengthened so that we can add value on the continent before exporting, and then of course to strengthen the human capacity of our young people.


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