ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, November 6, 2019/ — With the right policies and linkages, Africa can become an indispensable global economic hub, Singapore’s Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted Tuesday, commending the continent’s diverse economic potential.
Delivering this year’s Kofi A. Annan Eminent Speakers’ Lecture series at the African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Shanmugaratnam outlined five strategies which must underpin the continent’s transformation drive and efforts to build inclusive growth.
Africa must spread its economic openness by strongly showcasing specialisation along the production value chain and invest more boldly in social foundations. The continent must also maximise policy coherence and effectiveness, think in the long-term and maximise the benefits of global financial system, Shanmugaratnam told diplomats, students, government representatives and senior Bank officials gathered in the Babacar Ndiaye auditorium.
The lecture, the third in a new series organised by the African Development Institute, had the theme: “Inclusive Growth: Learning from Experience, Partnering for the Future – How Africa and Asia can work together for broad-based prosperity.” He was accompanied by senior government officials from Singapore.
“There are challenges, but there are also opportunities. There is much more to be done,” said Shanmugaratnam who is also Singapore’s Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.
In order to build economic resilience and create job opportunities for their bulging youth population, there must be stronger connectivity and economic interaction among developing regions, especially between Africa and Asia which share demographic similarities.
He noted that there is a significant interest by Singapore businesses in Africa which needs to be scaled up. “We need to take practical steps to spur this collaboration with more bilateral investment treaties that provide some assurance to investors.”
Singapore is the eighth largest foreign investor in Africa. It invested around $90 billion in the continent in 2018.
“We are in an unusual time globally – a time of unusual challenge where some of the basic beliefs of how the world prospect together are being challenged. But it’s also a time of immense opportunities… in the international economy, in international finance and in international cooperation,” the minister stated.
It is projected that in the next decade, Africa will have the largest working age population in the world, larger than China and India with about 1.1 billion people of working age population of between 15 and 64 years.
Shanmugaratnam said African leaders must prepare to take advantage of the strong bulging workforce, coupled with the high mobile technology penetration to drive innovation for growth.
In his welcoming remarks, Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina noted that Africa could learn a lot from Singapore. He described Mr Shanmugaratnam as someone with expansive knowledge who was chosen because of his inspiring works in the Asian nation.
Adesina said the Eminent Lecture series was dedicated to Kofi Annan, a former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) in recognition of his contributions to humanity. Annan launched the UN millennium development goals.
“As we continue our efforts to do more, we want to learn from the impressive achievements of Singapore, and no one is better placed to discuss this and all of the things around Asia and Africa with us than Tharman Shanmugaratnam,” he said.
The African Development Bank launched the Eminent Speakers Lecture series in 2006 to provide a platform for a robust exchange of ideas to meet the challenges of African development.
Since then, the series has featured world-class speakers, politicians, top academics, businesspeople and civil society representatives, who have spoken on a diverse range of topics and issues, including economics, finance, regional integration, human development, the environment, and philosophy.