Call for Papers – African Economic Conference 2015: “Addressing Poverty and Inequality in the Post 2015 Development Agenda”

Jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Economic Conference (AEC) 2015 will take place in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, from November 2 to 4, 2015 under the following theme: “Addressing Poverty and Inequality in the Post 2015 Development Agenda”. The AEC 2015 will provide an opportunity to assess the impact of current inclusive growth strategies by presenting the latest empirical evidence on poverty, inequality and human development in Africa. It will also provide critical thinking on how policy-makers, development partners, the private sector, civil society organizations and the academia should support the planning and implementation of the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Papers accepted for presentation will comprise original work not previously published. Authors are invited to submit their full paper by July 31, 2015 and to follow the instructions on the following website:https://www.unteamworks.org/African-Economic-Conference-2015.

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For information on the conference:

African Development Bank: Audrey Verdier-Chouchane, aec@afdb.org

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa: Adam Elhiraika, aelhiraika@uneca.org

United Nations Development Programme: Ayodele Odusola, ayodele.odusola@undp.org

Concept note: http://www.afdb.org/en/documents/document/african-economic-conference-2015-concept-note-and-call-for-papers-54044/

The link to submit papers is the following:

https://www.unteamworks.org/African-Economic-Conference-2015

For media information, please contact:

AfDB: Olivia Ndong Obiang, o.ndong-obiang@afdb.org, tel. +225 01560505

ECA: Mercy Wambui, mwambui@uneca.org, tel. +251 92 10 14 767

UNDP: Nicolas Douillet, Nicolas.douillet@undp.org, tel. +1.212.906.5937 (New York)

About the African Development Bank Group:

The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 34 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states. www.afdb.org

About ECA:

Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa was established in 1958 with the mandate of promoting the economic and social development of its member States, fostering intra-regional integration, and promoting international cooperation for Africa’s development. www.uneca.org

About UNDP:

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. www.undp.org

The poor lack sleep due to lack of basic amenities; the rich lack sleep because the poor are awake

Currently attending the 25th session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). To begin with, the Governing Council is an intergovernmental decision making body of UN-Habitat; a programme within the United Nations that promotes integral and comprehensive approach to human settlements; assists countries and regions with human settlements problems; and strengthens co-operation and co-participation in all countries on human settlement issues.

The Theme of the 25th Governing Council (GC25) is: “UN-Habitat’s Contribution to the Post-2015 Development Agenda in Order to Promote Sustainable Urban Development and Human Settlements”

As I sat to join an acquintance for coffee over one of the breaks, I posed a couple of questions that were ringing in my mind. For purposes of this blog post let’s call the person X. “X do you think the world realizes how wide and rapid the income inequality gap is growing?”

“Do you believe in distributive justice while enhancing economic growth?”

” Do you mean giving my hard earned money to the poor through taxation and stuff?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“I’ll make more money and hire more guards,” he replied.

Urbanization is today one of the most important global trends of the 21st century. It is a transformative force that can be harnessed to enhance economic growth and productivity as well as wealth and state building. Are the opportunities and challenges arising from this trend being harnessed/addressed properly? In my opinion, Yes and No.

Urbanization has been reported to reduce poverty and be beneficial in various development sectors. More than 50% of the world’s population is now urban and this number is expected to rise to 60% by 2030. 90% of the world’s urban population growth during this period will take place in the cities of developing countries particularly those in Africa and Asia. Regrettably, urban population growth will add to the 863 million people who currently reside in informal settlements where access to basic amenities is lacking, and where tenure arrangements are precarious.

At the heart of the United Nations is the principle of leaving no one behind, a principle that is perceived by many as idealistic/ altruistic; in fact the majority find it unrealistic. However the fact of the matter is, no amount of money can save you from the repercussions of a growing desperately poor populace.

Here’s why: Most cities across the globe are witnessing increasing levels of violent conflicts and crises, unprecedented levels of crime and other types of violence. Switch on the telly and watch the daily news, this reality is staring at you square in the face.

The good news is that urbanization can be realized as the transformative force that it is. The growing inequality gap can be mitigated if done well however urbanization in of itself is not the magic bullet. In my opinion this transformation may occur through legitimizing prioritization of the interests of the most marginalized in society and their participation in the process, in this case the poor. Do the poor have access to quality basic services both in the rural and urban areas? Where this is not the case in the rural areas we are seeing continuous migration of people from the rural to the urban areas creating all manner of pressures in the city accompanied with pockets of poverty and crime waves.

Are the poor partcipating freely and actively in addressing these issues such as access to quality housing? Giving an example in Kenya, the goverment began the slum upgrading project which is anticipated to address the challenge of poor housing facilities in the slums. Though from visiting one of the projects one may get perplexed from seeing the number of uninhabited houses or from ‘other tenants’ renting the houses. It soon dawned on me that the people there were renting out these houses or just simply not inhabiting them. The lack of inclusion and engagement in dialogue on adequate housing is evident. Questions on the mapping process arise. Did the goverment inquire succinctly the number of people in the informal settlements? Did they inquire the resources that they have? What the peoples’ desires were? What kind of housing they envisioned?

I however do laud Kenya for institutionalizing these rights. Everyone in Kenya is entitled to decent housing and other basic rights as stipulated in the Constitution and this indeed is the right foundation when addressing this challenge.

My take home from the discussions is that we cannot respond to a select elite few whilst only accomodating the poor when it comes to development. This isn’t something new, we all know this. However the valour and time that we are dedicating to shift this ‘ideology’ from wishful thinking to practical reality is the ringing alarm.

Moving from early Pan-Africanism towards an African Renaissance

Like the famous mythical Sankofa bird symbol, Africans must look into their past to create their future; acknowledging our previous mistakes and learning from them but also celebrating our successes and building on them.

A focus on African Renaissance gives an opportunity to reflect on Africa’s self-reliance trajectory and the need to demystify, appropriate and popularize our history, our shared values, and our narrative about the state of Africa today, in honor of the generations that went before us and to inspire current and future generations.

Pan-Africanism at its inception was more than just a search for racial or geographic identity. Initially led and popularized by Africans in the Diaspora such as Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois, it was a clear rejection of the laughable fallacy that Africans did not have a history. It was also a strong refutation of the mindset that defined Africa and Africans from the perspective of the historical experience of slavery, colonialism and racial discrimination.  Rather it was the affirmation of the rich cultural heritage of African societies and the importance of achieving freedom and continental unity.

Since then the concept of Pan-Africanism has continued to evolve, measured by the challenges and aspirations of the African continent. During the independence period, this ideology enabled Africans to overcome domination and oppression by ending colonialism and apartheid in the continent. The possibility of rapid socio-economic transformation of the continent was another goal promoted from early days. As noted by Emperor Hailé Selassié during the launch of the OAU, “Unless the political liberty for which Africans have for long struggled is complemented and bolstered by a corresponding economic and social growth, the breath of life which sustains our freedom may flicker out.” This statement still rings true. [1]

Despite strong political mobilization for the liberation from oppression, Africa has failed to fulfill its full potential. It is well known that in the early 1960s, at the time of the establishment of the OAU, there was high optimism that the continent will perform well. Several African countries were at par or had even higher GDP rates than their counterparts in Asia. It is now common place to mention that, the GDP per capita of Ghana and South Korea were at the same level in 1960. Up until 1975, the fastest growing developing country in the world was Gabon. Botswana’s growth rate exceeded that of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand. Despite the optimism of the time, Africa failed to complete the transformation journey which Asia has to a large degree now traversed. While East Asia’s share in world global exports grew from 2.25 % to 17.8% over a period of 40 years (1970 to 2010), Africa’s share in world global exports drastically reduced from 4.99% to the current 3.33%. This led to Africa being called the ‘hopeless continent’, ‘a scar on the conscience of humanity’ and many other Hegelian fallacies.

As we entered the 21st century, Pan-Africanism reflected Africa’s conscious need for not only political independence, regional integration and the improvements of its living standards, but also the throwing of the shackles of economic bondage and democratic stagnation that had seen it reverse the short lived prosperity of the independence era. This meant devising a new economic positioning and new forms of partnership in which Africa, as an equal partner, would negotiate with the rest of the world, with fierce defense of its own defined priorities.  Without losing the key elements of unity, cultural heritage and freedom, the reinterpretation of Pan-Africanism in the form of an African Renaissance is very relevant. It is a new phase that requires popular participation and mobilization of the African people behind the goals of structural transformation and improved governance.  Indeed, Africa’s Renaissance can only be complete when the African voice will be heard and taken into account.

The relevance of the Pan-Africanism ideal, and its continuous attraction to intellectuals both on the continent and in the Diaspora, will be measured by the ability to adjust to new demands and new generations. Indeed, the ability to continue to provide inspiration and conviction to Africans across ages is the trade mark of Pan-Africanism. Thankfully, things have changed for the better since the turn of the century. Six out of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, there is a marked reduction in the number and size of conflicts in the continent, democratic governance and the respect of human dignity are on the rise. Africa is therefore ripe for change. It must seize this moment for re-strategizing.

The AU’s proclaimed vision is for ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena’. Laudable in its aspirations, what guarantees do we have that it will not remain rhetoric? We must ask ourselves how we reach these goals.Agenda 2063 identifies the prerequisites for Africa’s sustained transformation in clear and unambiguous terms and offers a reinterpretation of the continent’s trajectory and claim the 21st century as Africa’s!

What might draw Africa back from achieving its objectives?

In pursuing any bold transformation, there are a few risks that must be appreciated and tackled head on. Current challenges facing any developing countries are very different from past two decades. These include addressing borderless problems such as the impact of climate change, creating jobs while building an educated and innovative workforce, tackling the scourge of disease, famine and conflicts, as well as ensuring that Africa’s vast natural resource wealth benefits its people. Economic inequality, expanding opportunities for all, reducing illiteracy and creating the enabling conditions for the growth development and protection of nascent local industries are just a few examples of a myriad of tasks that will certainly continue to drag Africa down in the world scales.

Towards an African Renaissance.

One thing is sure; Africa must act very differently, if it is going to take advantage of the current momentum. African leaders need a paradigm shift in their thinking. This transformation has already begun and it shows itself in diverse ways. For example, the perceptible change in the orientation of current African leaders from a dependence on external aid and external actors to an Afro-centric and internal support system.In an interview he granted in 1993, Issa Diallo questioned the rationale behind Africans expecting foreigners to build their countries for them[2]. An aid dependence mentality is slowly giving a space to a more assertive leadership.

Starting from the original OAU Charter, there already existed a myriad of resolutions, treaties, accords and inter-governmental agreements to sustain Africa’s ambitions. What is needed now is for African leaders to move their agenda forward. The advantages of regional integration were recognised by Africans through the Pan-African ideology long before others and even longer before the term ‘globalisation’ was coined. The OAU’s creation simply reflected this awareness. The benefits of regional cooperation – increased investment, sustainability, consolidation of economic and political reforms, increased global competitiveness, prevention of conflict- are accepted, but sometimes just that: accepted.

If Africa is going to own its narrative, it has to preserve its policy space and try out its own development approaches. Renaissance means ‘revival’ or ‘rebirth’ and in the context of its usage now, not only offers an opportunity to awaken the spirit of Africa in the 21st century, but also a rallying call to rid the continent of poverty, instability, corruption and neglect. This new mindset means the need to rethink the traditional models of growth and development. In conclusion, the spirit of African unity is alive. It still lives amongst Africans. As Patrice Lumumba said so long ago, ‘The day will come when History will speak… Africa will write its own history… It will be a history of glory and dignity. Long live Africa!![3]

[1] ECA, AU. 2013. Celebrating success: Africa’s voice over 50 Years 1963-2013. Speech of Emperor Haile Selassie during the inauguration of the OAU in 1963
[2] Interview with Issa Diallo in ‘The Courier’ Jan 1992. http://collections.infocollections.org/ukedu/uk/d/Jec131e/1.1.html
[3] Patrice Lumumba, 1961. Letter from Thysville Prison to Mrs. Lumumba.http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/lumumba/1961/xx/letter.htm

By Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary Economic Commission for Africa

Article Cross Posted from the Executive Secretary’s Blog

Video series: Experiences and Lessons from the field on Silencing the Guns in Africa: Strengthening Democratic Governance

What are experiences and lessons if they do not evoke an emotion out of you to do better?

This session was moderated by the eloquent, graceful and beautiful Ms. Belinda Moses, Co-founder and COO, San Media.

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In beginning this discussion, Ms. Moses raised the pertinent aspect of embracing media to showcase, complement and enhance the discussions being held.The video below depicts the atrocities of war and undoubtedly does have some graphic images but all the more reason to watch it to the end.

Prof. Ndioro Ndiaye, former minister for Women and Children, Republic of Senegal, a panelist in the session reiterated the need for promotion of good governance from the ground up and not in the reverse. Her point of view was expounded further by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Former Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeria, who emphasized the need for creating social safety nets for young people to implement the same. “We must turn around corrupt and unaccountable governments in Africa by strengthening democratic governance institutions,” he stated.

“We have a diverse youth in Africa and unfortunately there is a segment of the youth becoming poorer, we need to cater to them,” reiterated his counterpart H.E Mme Maya Sahli, Fadel Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

Dr. Vasu Gounden, Executive Director ACCORD took us down memory lane as he recollected the sobering misdeeds that were undertaken in 1994 when South Africa avoided a massive blood bath. This is when the right wing movement attempted to curtail all progress made on democracy. This included 50,000 armed men who had been thoroughly trained to kill and destroy during the country’s first elections. How the country was able to surmount this challenge is a miracle. Kindly watch below:

Dr. Gounden informed the audience of the consequences brought about by profound socio-economic inequality. Today, South Africa has one of the highest numbers of social protest and it comes as no surprise. “We need to close the gap in development and education. When people enter politics because they have no other alternative to close their own personal gaps, then we are in trouble,” he stated.

Ibraheem Sanusi  rightly put it when he stated that we should strive to not only want a continent not at war, but one that respects and upholds human rights and builds peace together.

Here’s a video that sums it up. #DGTrends

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