Africa at the tipping point: transforming Africa's economy.

Author:Versi, Anver

This month's Cover Story is dedicated to the urgent need to transform Africa's economy. By a happy coincidence of external factors and internal reforms, most of Africa finds itself in a position to grasp the opportunity and surge forward to the next level of development thereby joining, in time, the strong emerging economies of Asia and Latin America. But opportunities rarely come knocking twice and if this great chance is ignored, the continent will have missed the tide and could regress. In this Cover Story, we will appraise Africa's current status by referring to the recently released Africa Progress Panel Report and discussing the views of Justin Lin, the World Bank's chief economist, and KY Amoako, one of the world's most distinguished African economists.

Bellagio, in Italy, a small, picturesque town perched on Lake Como and surrounded by sharp-edged mountains, is normally given to producing exquisite arts and crafts for the tourist trade. This summer, it was also the site for a gathering of some of the world's top experts on the African economy. China's Justin Lin, the first World Bank chief economist to come from the developing world, was one of that number. Another was KY Amoako, ex-World Bank, one-time head of the African Economic Commission and now president of the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET). Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank and an unabashed champion of Africa's transformation was also part of the meeting, as were three ministers: Mekonnen Manyazewal, Minister of Industry, Ethiopia, Vitoria Diogo, Minister of Public Service, Mozambique and Amara Konneh, Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, Liberia.

The group, meeting at the Rockefeller Foundation's idyllic retreat in Bellagio, had come together to discuss ways and means of bringing about the transformation of Africa's economies - as speedily as possible. "The iron of transformation is hot," Amoako said, "we must beat it into shape before it cools down."

One of the economists present defined the term 'transformation'. Transformation, he said was the process whereby, for example, raw cotton is picked and put through a process which ends in a beautiful fabric. It is a complete and total transformation from one state to the other so that the finished state is unrecognisable from the primary state.

Change mind-set

This was the aim of the ACET group - to help transform African countries from where they are today to shining economic...

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