KIGALI, Rwanda, June 16, 2011 /CNW/ - "There is an emerging dynamism on
the African continent. Purposefulness and energy are the new face of
Africa"- Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith
Africa is at a defining period of development and the Commonwealth will
play a role in sustaining and deepening the momentum, Deputy
Secretary-General Ransford Smith said on 15 June 2011.
Some 19 of the Commonwealth's 54 members are from Africa and a number of
them were recognised as the new frontiers of economic growth, Mr Smith
told an audience at the School of Finance and Banking in the Rwandan
capital Kigali on the third day of a five-day visit to the east African
During the visit, Mr Smith held discussions with senior government
ministers and officials, focusing on how the Commonwealth can assist
Rwanda in tackling some of its economic challenges. These included
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning John Rwangombwa and central
National Bank of Rwanda Governor Claver Gatete.
The Deputy Secretary-General was positive about Africa's prospects.
But he said critical to sustaining the economic growth momentum in
Africa was adherence to Commonwealth values and principles, such as
good and accountable governance, the rule of law and respect for human
"This role must be informed by, and anchored in, the Commonwealth's
defining virtue as an association of values that are both conducive to,
and promote democracy and development," Mr Smith, a Jamaican, told the
500-strong audience of diplomats, academics, politicians, civil society
Mr Smith said that while the African continent had not achieved the
seven per cent growth rate viewed as necessary to achieve the
Millennium Development Goals (MDG), it was not too far off the pace,
growing at an average six per cent a year between 2001 and 2008. He
said it was necessary for the growth to transition into sustained
Mr Smith called for concerted efforts by Africans and donor governments
to tackle "stubborn facts" that negatively impacted Africa's growth. He
said these were "the increasing number of the poor, inadequate
infrastructure, high unemployment, deficits in governance, and
shortfalls in attaining the Millennium Development Goals".
He also noted that despite the rapid growth, Africa's economies remained
among the least diversified in the global community, with 80 per cent
of exports coming from oil, minerals and primary agricultural goods.
He noted that 60 per cent of Africa's workforce was employed in the
agricultural sector, which nevertheless contributed less than 30 per
cent of growth.
"This statistic shows that agriculture is under performing. But I
believe that Africa will diversify and that services - like banking and
telephony - will ultimately become the frontier of growth."
To put Africa's growth in perspective, Mr Smith said that over the past
30 years, China's real gross domestic product had doubled every seven
to eight years, national income had increased sixteen fold, and a
billion of its citizens had been lifted out of poverty.
"If rather than looking back we can look forward 30 years, the scale of
the potential transformation and the resulting impact on Africa and the
global community will be massive," Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith highlighted areas in which the Commonwealth could assist Africa
in its growth trajectory, including trade policy formulation and
negotiation, export development strategies, public sector development
and reforms and meeting MDG targets in health and education.
Other areas he cited were strengthening oversight institutions such as
the Office of the Ombudsman, human rights bodies, anti-corruption
agencies, the Office of the Auditor-General, parliamentary committees
and election management bodies.
He said the Commonwealth was assisting Africa in enabling gender
equality and equity, strengthening Information Communication Technology
capabilities, and developing regulatory and legal frameworks for
natural resource exploitation.
SOURCE The Commonwealth Secretariat
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