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COM-2021: Experts gather to strategise on sustainable industrialisation amid COVID-19 in Africa

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The illustration shows a 3D-printed model of the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19. (iStock Photo)

As Africa continues to battle the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, economy and finance experts are set to chart a path on sustainable industrialisation in the continent.

They would gather under the aegis of the `Economic Commission for Africa’s 53rd Session’ and the `Conference of the African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, from March 17 to March 23 and in a hybrid form.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by the Communication Department of the ECA, some participants, led by the Executive Secretary of ECA, Vera Songwe, will attend from Addis Ababa while the majority will participate virtually.

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The conference will assemble seasoned and high-level panellists both from within and outside Africa for discussions that promise to be exciting and engaging as the continent continues to respond to the ravages of the COVID-19 crisis.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the outcomes and decisions of the conference will have important implications for Africa’s future.

Among some of the key speakers for the conference is Ms Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, who is a former Deputy Governor at the Bank of England.

Shafik is also 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.

Other participants include the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Director-General, Li Yong, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Director-General, Houlin Zhao, and Ethiopian Minister of Finance, Ahmed Shide.

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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 the 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 panellists, including UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Biyanyima.

Other panellists are Afreximbank President, Benedict Oramah, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group Global Advisor, Susan Silbermann, and Amadou Sall, Director, L’Institut Pasteur, Medical Research Institute, Senegal.

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The conference will be held under the theme: ‘Africa’s sustainable industrialisation and diversification in the digital era in the context of COVID−19’.

NAN reports that this year’s theme embraces the need for African countries to achieve rapid economic growth through environmentally conscious industrialisation and diversification while taking advantage of digitalisation.

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.

It recognises that industrialisation, 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.

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