It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Addis Ababa for the meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Government and people of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for their hospitality and generosity extended to all participants at this meeting.
I would also like to extend my profound appreciation to the Bureau of the 54th Session, led by His Excellency, Ambassador Lamine Thiaw, who have shown great leadership in guiding the work of ECA up to this point.
This year’s theme, “Fostering recovery and transformation in Africa to reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities”, reflects the persistent, compounding and deepening multiple crises that Africa is facing, which are continuing to perpetuate and exacerbate levels of poverty and inequality that were already significant before these recent global shocks.
Africa currently leads in global poverty.
The continent is home to more than half of the world’s poor – 54.8 per cent in 2022 – overtaking South Asia with 37.6 per cent.
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, 62 million people were pushed into poverty in just one year, with an additional 18 million estimated to have joined their ranks by the end of 2022.
As many as 149 million non-poor – or about 10 per cent of Africa’s population – remain at high risk of falling into poverty.
All in all, 695 million people in Africa are either poor or face the risk of falling into poverty. This represents 50 per cent of the continent’s population.
Women and girls remain particularly vulnerable, and we are facing a potential reversal of the hard-won gains made on gender equity.
Africa cannot just stay the course and hope that it gets better.
It must lead the charge.
The continent is uniquely placed to be at the centre of all global transitions.
Recent crises have underscored the need for systemic change. Policymakers and experts worldwide are recognizing the importance of building resilient and sustainable systems, shifting away from a primary focus on efficiency that has dominated past decades.
This represents a paradigm shift of historic significance, and it is our generation’s responsibility to ensure that Africa embraces this change and harnesses the continent’s potential.
We must ensure the necessary investments in sustainably building up of capital in critical assets – including human, infrastructure, and natural – to provide us with the needed environment to achieve the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.
We need to de-risk investments on the continent through advances in hard and soft infrastructure.
To accelerate the implementation of these two critical Agendas, governments must design strategies that simultaneously integrate economic, social and environmental objectives as part of the same continuum.
Co-benefits must be amplified.
Let me highlight a few of the opportunities before us.
First, we need to finance our development.
Getting the macroeconomic fundamentals right can unlock the potential of home-grown solutions and accelerate domestic resource mobilization.
The right domestic policy actions can move us from less than 17 per cent tax revenue to GDP ratio towards levels currently seen in Latin America and Caribbean countries at 21.9%.
However, this should not stop our rallying call for a fairer and more just global financial architecture that responds to the needs of the most vulnerable.
Currently, many countries simply cannot access international financial markets because of rising interest rates, and existing debt relief mechanisms do not work well for us.
To address this financing divide the Secretary-General has called for the SDG Stimulus of about USD500 billion per year, focused on tackling the high cost of debt and rising risks of debt distress, scale up affordable long-term financing for development, and expand contingency financing to countries in need.
Another opportunity is the aggressive pursuit of sustainable industrialization and economic diversification to transform Africa’s natural resources into tangible benefits for its people, the battery and electric value chain being a case in point.
Put simply, our wealth in natural resources must work for the majority, not the few.
To get to this point, we must be intentional in our approach and pay attention to detail.
One thing must lead to another and all dots must be connected.
This is where the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can deliver on its promise and provide the economies of scale to invest in manufacturing, leading to increased intra-Africa trade.
This will bring supply chains closer to home and inject a degree of self-sufficiency in essential products such as medicines, food and fertilizers.
It also provides us with a unique bargaining tool as we negotiate for fairness and equity in the utilization of our natural resources for development.
Finally, we must take centre stage on climate action. While we cannot overlook the fact that we are disproportionately suffering on impact and financing alike, we have significant opportunities to rebalance the scales on climate finance.
If we take advantage of our rainforests and develop our carbon markets, we could unleash an estimated USD82 billion a year in value, at USD120 per ton of CO2 sequestered, and create 167 million additional jobs.
This could surpass the broken promises of USD100 billion on climate adaptation and mitigation.