The UN-ECA (United Nations-Economic Commission for Africa) is one of the oldest regional institutions in Africa and may be the world
. So, it was very important to meet and discuss some critical issues for the economic and social development in the African content. So, we interviewed the ECA Acting Executive Secretary Dr. Abdalla Hamdok (a Sudanese expatriate) during his recent visit to the country. It should be noted that Dr. Hamdok during this visit has made a very important presentation on “Post Conflicts Lessons from Africa” which will be the focus of a separate report in this newspaper. Excerpts
Q: In the last few decades three initiatives were launched at the regional and international level which has confused the public opinion very much. In name they are at the regional level, NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa Development) and at the content level, Africa -2063 Agenda and at the international level first the MDGSs (Millennium Development Goals for 2001-2015 and later the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) for 2016-2030. Can you please try to clearly this for our readers?
A: Thank you very much and this is really is a very interesting question. It is a confusing issue not only to the people of Sudan but the whole African content.
We have two which are similar, Africa Agenda-2063 and SDGs 2030. The SDGs is the global development agenda which the whole world approved together.
But if you look at the sequence of approving these two initiatives, the Agenda-2063 was approved by the African as an Africa development agenda on January, 2015 while the whole world approved the SDGs 2030 in September, 2015. In this sequence Agenda 2063 comes first. But both agenda are influenced by the CAP (Common African Position) on the post-2015 development agenda. And Africa is the only region on the world that has a common position on Agenda 2030 or the SDGs.
Because if you remember very well that when the MDGs were approved in 2000 there was very little consultation on those agenda. They were actually literally pushed on our throat as Africans.
This time-round Africa was well prepared. Four or five years before the end of the time frame of the MDGs in 2015, Africa embarked on a very elaborate consultation process that coasted the whole content with a common position on the new development agenda. This is why we gave the world the African Common Position on Agenda 2030.
Literally speaking, I would like to think that the 2030 Agenda or SDGs as a sub-set of Agenda 2063 beside the agreement of the whole world on 2030 Agenda.
The 2063 Agenda has the uniqueness of Africa own agenda. And I can think of four areas in which 2063 is much broader than 2030.
Firstly, there is the agenda of African integration, the milestone of the Abuja Treaty and all the way to the African Union government. This is not in the 2030 Agenda.
Secondly, the issue of “The Silence of the Guns”, Africa have a very serious ambition of silencing the guns by 2020. That is also not there in 2030.
Thirdly, shared values of Africa in diversity, democracy, etc. Fourthly, the specific issues of integration like the free trade area which is also a very ambitious African program. Africa wants to reach the continental free trade area by next year, and 2017 is the dead line.
These are the things that distinguish 2063 from 2030. But by and large they are both developmental frameworks.
The third, NEPAD which was approved 15 or 16 years ago. The time when NEPAD was drafted conceded with the establishment of the AU (African Union). The founding fathers of the AU in their wisdom realized that the AU was new and needed not a parallel process but the economic program of the AU and they felt that if you throw in the new established African Union you would run the risk of having a sub-optimum program.
This is why the decided to establish the NEPAD, which is by far and large , the AU economic program which look almost like a parallel program.
But half-way about 2010, realizing that the AU was well established (commissions, etc) , so the process of integrating NEPAD started and today NEPAD is fully integrated in the African Union mechanisms. This broadly speaking are the main features of the three initiatives.
Q: How do you evaluate, that the MSGs are now history, the prospects of the implementation of the SDGs in Africa?
A: I think that the difference is that the SDGs are not like the MDGs. The SDGs recognize the importance of the starting positions. You remember that in the MDGs we had the broad goal of fighting poverty and off course if you want to reduce poverty from 80 40 percent , you will need a lot of efforts and resources and that is different from if the reduction is from 40 to 20 percent. That is why the starting position is very important.
So, the SDGs recognize that the initial conditions matters. Also, it have the beauty of assessing and measuring implementation right down to the sub-national levels. This was not there in the MDGs. The SDGs give the countries the opportunity to address this. Also, in the MDGs there was no consideration of the issue of the enabling environment like the SDGs.
It is one thing to calculate that this much to reduce poverty and another thing to look at what is the nature of the enabling environment in terms of issues of governance, basic stricture, capacity, etc. The SDGs address these issues.
The MDGs by and large eights goals are driven by social issues; education , health, etc, while the SDGs are much broader , it talks about the economics. Transformation agenda, industrialization which were not in the MDGs.
Taking it together in these terms, there is a much better opportunity for the world and for Arica to achieve the SDGs than we had in achieving the MDGs.
Q: The ECA focus on seven broad issues; micro economics, social development, regional integration, natural resources management, innovation and technology, gender and governance.
A: I think if you remember that in the Workshop, I talked briefly on the mandate of the ECA which is one of five UN commissions in the world and our mandate is to promote social and economic development as well as promote international cooperation for Africa’s development. And we have been working for almost sixty years (1958). The choice of these themes is precisely to address that mandate. But must stress on that we are not a supply driven institution but by far and large demand driven. We respond to felt needs in the content that is why we are focusing on these seven areas with the understanding that if we are able to address these issues with our member states will not only be able will not be only to respond to our mandate but as well as to the broad developmental challenges and transformation challenges in the content.
Q: The ECA issues annually three main reports on Africa can you elaborate more on the nature of these reports?
A: These are what we call the flag ships. The first and main one is the Economic report on Africa which Is an annual report and each report consists of two parts,
In the first part, we choose every year a theme and for the last five years the focus was in industrialization because we felt that there is no region or country in the world that can develop and break the cycle of under-development without addressing seriously the issue of industrialization. This why we started broadly with governance and industrialization m industrialization and agriculture then the green economy and this year report is on Urbanization and Industrialization. The economic report has two parts, the first on the theme and the second a general part which addresses the social and economic status of Africa and where Africa is situated in that context.
Q: This year ECA issued a report on the International Dimensions of Corruption. Can you tell us about the importance of this report?
A: This was the 2016 Governance Report which we issue with the African Integration Report annually. But before we go into that; why we issue an annual report on governance . Some thirty years ago the issue of governance was perceived as externally driven agenda by the westerns. Today this has changed and governance is key to anything you do because until you get your governance right, you cannot do much.
The choice of this year theme: Measuring Corruption; The International Dimension Matters, is an image issue. Because corruption is not unique to Africa it is all over the world. But there was an impression that these African are corrupt dictators and hopeless countries. This is not the case because corruption in other parts of the world is as large as in Africa. So, we wanted to send a message that corruption is not unique to Africa. And that there is an international dimension to the problem because corruption is an issue of supply and demand.
Africans are not corrupt by nature and it is not because of our black skins that we are corrupt. There are corrupt and corrupters.
When you look at the excellent work spearheaded and lead by the ex-president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki and if you look at the component of that report in which the ECA played the secretariat and lead role. You will find that 65 percent of the illicit flows going out of Africa is linked to the work of multi nationals. 30 percent is linked to activities like drugs, counterfeiting, human trafficking, etc which are related to organized crime organizations. And only 5 percent linked directly to corrupt officials in the content. It is because it is not important because the three are influenced by corruption. But in terms of magnitude , corrupt dictators like Mobota and Abasha may have taken out of this content collectively probably twenty or thirty billion dollars but through the multinationals this content is losing fifty billion dollars annually and it is in the crease.
We want to put in the agenda of the world that this is the main culprit and don’t try to convince us it is not and we want to address this serious issue. It is a scourge, it is bad and it has to stop.
Also, we don’t want the poor part of the world to continue to subsidize the rich part by overlooking the major culprit .companies that are working in illicit finance ,exploitation of natural resources ; oil, timber, demands, etc. We want this to stop. That is why we focused this issue of the Governance Report 2016 on the international dimension of corruption.
Q: The ECA have published a report in Feb.2016 on “ Investment Policies and Bilateral Investment Treaties : Implications for Regional Integration”. Can we discuss about this issue?
A: We look at what we call raise the paten which means what provides the incentives for investment, by waving taxes, etc. We believe that this will not attract investments; it will just give us radium. And I think this is an excellent area and I think in the future we can look at the whole area of investments, governance and FDI (Foreign Direct Investments) and what drive investments and all these issues.
Q: African quick economic growth didn’t have a major positive impact on the majority of the population. Why?
A: I mentioned this in my presentation. The problem of this growth is poverty because it had very little impact on poverty and on unemployment and it may have increased inequality. The major reason is the nature of this growth. It is linked to the exploitation of natural resources, and by and large it is linked to the private export sector.
But more than that we still continue to export raw materials, we don’t add value to our products. Adding value is not only the value that is added to the goods but it creates decent jobs. This why we think that you cannot break this cycle of under development if you don’t embark on serious industrialization. This growth can only be useful in addressing unemployment particularly among the youth unless you embark on industrialization and the creation of decent jobs.
Growth today can grow by 5 or 10 percent but if it is a growth drives by the export of raw materials it will have very little impact on the economy. It can create a surplus and if governments are serious this surplus can be ploughed back into development projects, building infrastructure and create employment opportunities.
Q: The last question for the time being. Are you providing any technical assistance to African countries on individual bases in the formulation and implementation of development strategies like on the SGDs or Africa 2963?
A: Absolutely. We have two instruments in this regard. One is that we have the Institute of Economic Planning in Dakar (Senegal) which specializes in development planning and is attended by ministries of planning and sectoral ministries to develop their capacities and it have short and long term courses. Also, we offer what we call advisory services in a number of areas particularly planning, economic development, micro economic policies, negotiations, issues of contracts negotiations, natural resources management, climate change and all that. So, we have regional advisory services to address these issues