The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) will hold its fifty-third session and the Conference of the African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, from 17 March to 23 March 2021 in hybrid form focusing on sustainable industrialization in Africa.
In the wake of the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus and related disruptions, some participants, led by Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, will attend from Addis Ababa while the majority will participate virtually. The conference will assemble seasoned and high-level panelists both from within and outside Africa for discussions that promise to be exciting and engaging as the continent continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Outcomes and decisions of the conference will have important implications for Africa’s future.
Among some of the key speakers for the conference is Baroness Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, who’s a former Deputy Governor at the Bank of England, former Deputy Managing Director at the IMF and former Permanent Secretary of England’s Department for International Development where she was responsible for the UK’s development assistance efforts around the world.
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Director General, Li Yong, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Director General, Houlin Zhao, and Ethiopian Minister of Finance, Ahmed Shide, will also participate and make key presentations.
South Africa’s former Trade and Industry Minister, Robert Davies, will deliver the 2021 Adebayo Adedeji Lecture, which will be held under the theme; “Towards a Developmental Approach to the AfCFTA” during the conference.
The annual lecture was set up to honour the late Professor Adebayo Adedeji, who was one of Africa’s foremost development thinkers and the longest serving ECA Executive Secretary. Rwanda’s Minister for Trade and Small and Medium Enterprises, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, will be the main respondent. High-level panel discussions during the Conference of Ministers will include The Big Debate on Sustainable Growth in the Digital era post COVID-19. Nigeria’s Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister, Zeinab Ahmed, will be the lead speaker.
In light of COVID-19, one of the high-level panels will tackle managing debt and innovative finance for fiscal sustainability, and the role of the private sector, while another will look at whether Africa is ready to finance its own vaccine. Lead speaker in this panel would be WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom, with panelists, including UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Biyanyima, Afreximbank President, Benedict Oramah, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group Global Advisor, Susan Silbermann, and Amadou Sall, Director, L’ Institut Pasteur, Medical Research Institute, Senegal
The conference will be held under the theme “Africa’s sustainable industrialization and diversification in the digital era in the context of COVID−19”.
This year’s theme embraces the need for African countries to achieve rapid economic growth through environmentally conscious industrialization and diversification while taking advantage of digitalization. Discussions under the theme will explore and consolidate strategies on the way forward to manage the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on African economies. Specifically, the theme reflects calls for an alignment of development strategies with climate change mitigation measures, recognizing that industrialization, while being an effective engine of growth for many developed countries, has come at a severe cost to the global climate, posing a growing threat to African nations.
African countries will need to implement development strategies that recognize that better, safer and more inclusive growth must involve strong action against climate change and the efficient use of natural resources. Consequently, Africa’s development path must minimize the aberrations of development in industrialized nations and embrace modernization through digitalization and less climate-costly industrialization.
The start of trading within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 1 January 2021 signals a unique turning point in the continent’s pursuit of industrialization, with e-commerce, which is a key catalyst in digitalized economies, being a cornerstone of AfCFTA infrastructure.
As in previous sessions, the Committee of Experts will meet from 17-19 March 2021 for technical deliberations on the theme and the statutory issues of the Commission while the Conference of Ministers will take place on 22 and 23 March 2021. In addition, a number of side events tackling various topics will be held virtually.