- Published on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 11:55
- Written by The News
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the sustainability of Africa's growth depends on ownership, stability, governance, human capital, and infrastructure.
According to an Executive Mansion Dispatch from Tokyo, President Sirleaf was addressing the 72nd Public Policy Seminar of the Graduate School of Public Policy at Tokyo University on Monday, October 15.
Speaking about ownership, the Liberian leader said Africa's growth and development will have to be decided by Africans themselves, determining the agenda and guiding the direction of growth and development.
On stability, President Sirleaf indicated that the peace which has prevailed in the region over the past decade has been a key determinant of the good economic performance, observing that private capital flows when and where there is safety and stability.
“Although progress has been made, there is need for further strengthening of institutions for more effective implementation of policies regarding public financial management; for continued transparency, accountability and consistency in the rule of law,” President Sirleaf emphasized.
She noted insufficient attention to the development of technical skills based on training in the sciences which has rendered Africa less competent as compared with Asia and Latin America.
Concerning infrastructure, the Liberian President cited weak and expensive infrastructure which has slowed the continent's per capita growth rate by about 2 percentage points. “It will require some US$93 billion a year over 10 years for investment in power, transport, water and roads,” she warned.
Looking back at Africa 25 years ago, President Sirleaf recounted a sub-Saharan Africa in despair; a continent ruled, to a large extent, by unelected and unaccountable dictators, which translated into an economic crisis that left the region virtually bankrupt.
“For twenty years, starting in the mid 1970s, nearly all of our countries experienced zero or negative rates of growth in per capita incomes, President Sirleaf said; promising businesses were ruined and new investment virtually stopped, except for the exploitation of natural resources; unemployment soared, and physical and social infrastructure were totally destroyed or deteriorated very badly.
Since 2000, she continued, much has changed across the region.
“Dictators have been replaced by democracy. Authoritarianism has given way to accountability. Economic stagnation is turning to resurgence such that the region today is regarded as the fastest growing one in the world,” President Sirleaf told the attentive audience.
President Sirleaf said poverty rates are falling. Investors who never would have considered the region a decade ago are lining up to look at new opportunities. Political conflicts have generally subsided, and governments are strengthening the protection of civil liberties and political freedoms, making a compelling case that democracy and development are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.
The Liberian leader quoted a number reports suggesting that since the 1990s, Africa's collective economy continues to grow; and that while Asia's tiger economies continue to expand rapidly, there is a potential rise of the “Africa lion” in the future.
Despite the impressive statistics, President Sirleaf cautioned that the region's economy remains vulnerable to internal social disorders and external shocks, resulting from increased cost of food staple and decreased value of exports and remittances due to declining growth in the region's major trading partners. Exploitation of the region's vast natural reserves through foreign direct investment in minerals and oil exploration and in agriculture raised the threat of domestic political instability due to population displacement.
As the world's youngest and fastest urbanizing continent, economic models must create conditions that can absorb the high number of unemployed youth or run the risk of instability, particularly in the cities. Additionally, she warned that foreign direct investment in Africa must move beyond the extractive sector which is capital intensive, with limited opportunities to absorb the unemployed.
Reflecting on her own country, President Sirleaf said Liberia has continued to experience positive economic growth, deriving in part from new exports of iron ore and other export commodities.
“In keeping with our diversification plan, we are promoting new investment in other sectors to provide a foundation for our second five-year medium-term growth and development strategy, 2012 to 2017,” the Liberian leader said, citing her administration's new vision which expects to make Liberia a middle-income country by 2030.
She said that the private sector remains a key driver in the country's economic growth and development, encouraged by significant improvements in the environment for investment and doing business.
“We are determined to move Liberia forward and will continue to take those measures that will enable us to have a conducive atmosphere that produces a thriving and vigorous private sector, comprising both large- and small-scale enterprises.”
On what Japan can do as a partner, President Sirleaf said sub-Saharan Africa looks forward to building public-private partnerships which will bring Japan's vast technical expertise in the development of infrastructure and promotion of employment through vocational and technical training.
“We hope that significant progress in this regard will be tabled during TICAD V next June. Liberia's expectations are similar, and we look forward to a trade and investment mission that will build upon what is already under way in partnership,” she concluded