Africa Traversing a Defining Period for Development

By The Commonwealth Secretariat, PRNE
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

KIGALI, Rwanda, June 16, 2011 -

There is an emerging dynamism on the
African continent. Purposefulness and energy are the new face of
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

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 country.

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

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 rights.

“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 and students.

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 inclusive development.

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

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

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

“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

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.

For media enquiries, please contact Manoah Esipisu,
ty Spokesperson, on +44-789-446-2021 or via
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