By Asmau Ahmad
An economist, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, said the African Union (AU) is key to the continent’s rapid economic growth and development.
Sachs, Director, Centre for Sustainable Development, Columbia University, New York, said this at the on-going 36th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday.
The director spoke during the presentation of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Macroeconomic Performance and Outlook Report.
The professor said the African economy already showed resilience and moderate growth, adding that the continent could be the fastest growing region if it took further measures.
“I think that there are six crucial steps from where Africa is today to where Africa can be in this period of robust growth. First, continuing to strengthen the single market in Africa is the single most important step.
“If Africa replicates the performance of India and China, Africa will achieve the same high results.
“The African Union is the key to this and this is already well underway with important initiatives in the last few years.
“But building a single market, Africa will be one of the three giant regions of the world, and it will become the largest population in the world and centre of the global economy.”
The economist also said building critical infrastructure, especially power, fibre, rail, roads and ports could not be delayed.
“There’s a big agenda for infrastructure. It should not be based on what is currently available in national budgets, because that’s not enough. It should be financed. The third critical area is human skills. That’s the major capital stock of any economy.
“And because of digital technologies now, it is possible if we really strategies and deploy well, to have the most rapid upgrading of human skills in history in Africa,” Sachs said.
According to him, the African economies have several key critical sectors for investment such as agriculture through which the continent can feed itself and the rest of the world.
He said this required investments in water and irrigation. “Irrigation changes everything but it’s expensive. So, there’s a financing issue. But it’s a financing issue that is necessary.”
The professor also said Africa had critical minerals that were needed for global sustainable development.
“And yet they are basically ripped off until today by outside forces. And this is where smart management, proper taxation with proper guidance to collect the returns on these minerals is essential.”
Sachs said finance was another important factor that should be looked into.
According to him, Africa needs to be financed on a large scale for long term at the same terms as the rich countries and I believe we are going to get there.
“First, the AfDB is the key institution for making this breakthrough. Currently, the bank finances about $12 billion a year.
“It should be about 100 billion dollars a year. I want to put that on the table, adding that it will be the breakthrough for Africa to be one of the centres of the world economy.”