The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) is pleased to announce the third Guy Mhone International Conference, under the auspices of its Economic Research Programme. The theme of this year’s conference is The Renaissance of African Economies. The conference is being convened in the context of the global economic crisis which should prompt a critical analysis of all aspects of socioeconomic development in Africa. The Guy Mhone Conference on Development is organised annually in honour of one of the most distinguished African development thinkers and former member of CODESRIA’s Executive Committee, the late Professor Guy Mhone. This year’s edition of the conference will be held from 20 to 21 December, 2010 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Over the past decade, the world economy has experienced many ups and downs. Periods of recession were followed by periods of economic recovery; but while conditions for genuine economic recovery are not yet met, the evolution of the world GDP declined in the second half of 2010. The growth rate of the US dollar is expected to be 2.5% in 2010 and 2% in 2011, following a contraction of similar magnitude in 2009. Similarly, the growth rate would be 1.8% and 1.3% for the euro zone after a -3.9% drop in 2009.
Similarly, African economies were not indifferent to these changes. Periods of growth in crisis were followed by periods of substantial economic growth. After years of pessimism about growth prospects in Africa, optimism is taking over, although the latest post-crisis developments seem to temper this optimism. Growth resumed in most African economies, with encouraging results being recorded in various African countries and increased investment in the sector of telecommunications, infrastructure and financial services benefiting most of the economies. Despite the low penetration rate of new technologies, innovative applications of ICT were identified in areas as diverse as electronic banking, payment systems, agriculture, trade, administration and education. Many of these tools help to improve the business environment by contributing to the development of markets, reducing barriers related to infrastructure and lowering costs. The continued favourable macroeconomic policies, the strengthened judiciary and the improved transparency of national accounts of most countries have led to increased confidence of investors in the continent. Politically, the stability which occurred in many countries, following the decline of social tensions and increased investment in the consolidation of democracy, also contributed to creating an environment that is more conducive to investment.
These positive developments notwithstanding, it is necessary to interrogate the sustainability of this evolution. What are the prospects for the emergence of a number of African economies that will steadily practise appropriate economic policies? Can countries like South Africa, Botswana and Mauritius be driving forces for other poorer countries? Are we faced with a genuine revival of African economies, or is it rather simple economic changes? Do they allow successful cases to speak of a genuine economic renaissance, like political and cultural renaissance? What are the links between them? What were the factors of the growth recorded in many economies on the continent?
As a way of creating an avenue where these and other questions can be answered, CODESRIA has dedicated the 2010 edition of the Guy Mhone Conference on Development to the ‘renaissance and revival of African economies’. Many studies have attempted to explain the factors of this growth. For the most part however, these explanations have failed to go beyond the neoclassical standpoints, while the current dynamics require innovative explanations that could not only provide more convincing working hypotheses but also create new analytical prospects more capable of understanding and responding to major challenges facing Africa.
In terms of major economic groupings, Africa is part of the least developed countries (LDCs), with a population weight of about 18.2%, but with a contribution to world production at the rate of only about 0.5%. The economic and political future of the continent is yet a major challenge for the entire world, as its economic development is a sine qua non for world peace in the years to come. The place of Africa in the global community is defined by the fact that the continent is an important reserve of resources that can serve the entire humanity. Africa is one of the continents most capable of providing the raw materials needed by both developed and emerging countries, as could be seen in the increasing quest for African raw materials by countries like China and India. Thus, a new door of economic opportunity is opened to African countries, but this also implies risks that should not be overlooked. As a result, mismanagement of natural resources in Africa can not only lead to their exhaustion by foreign powers, but also constitute a danger to future generations, not to mention the negative impact on environment and climate.
While the effects of these imbalances are likely to be felt in the long run, there are disturbances that have more immediate impacts on African economies. Among these, the most striking fact is undoubtedly the economic crisis that has been affecting the economies of developed countries since 2008, with its effects on the steady growth of several African countries. Between 2003 and 2008, majority of African economies recorded an average growth rate of 5%. However, because of the decline in economic activities, the continent could only record a 2.8% growth in 2009, compared to 5.7% projected prior to the crisis. Thus, the crisis made Africa lose 120 dollars in GDP per capita. According to estimates by the African Development Bank (AfDB), to catch up and achieve its development goals by 2015, the continent needs 50 billion dollars additional aid per year. Nevertheless, the continent’s economies are less harmed than anticipated and the revival seems to be faster on the continent than elsewhere in the world. The forecasts for 2010 and 2011 are rather optimistic, with growth rates ranging from 4.5% in 2010 and 5.2% in 2011, against 4.2% and 4.3% respectively in the rest of the world. Africa can do much better; but to achieve this, it must mobilise more domestic resources to fund its development.
In a long-term perspective, it must be emphasised that structural problems are persistent in most countries of the continent. Despite the steady growth, poverty is still prevailent on the continent, the illiteracy rate is the highest in the world and youth unemployment rate is tending towards the extreme. Moreover, the level of economic development of the continent’s different countries remains very uneven. The economy is still deeply based on agriculture, with 65-85% of African populations active in the agricultural sector, but the added value of products derived from agriculture is comparatively very low. Furthermore, there is yet no integration between African economies. Despite the progress in this area in recent years, there is still a long way to go. In this unfavourable context, Africa should show a deep imagination and ensure that the experiences of the past serve as a lesson and an inspiration towards building a brighter future. In this sense, the conference aims to identify the forces whichhad, in the past, allowed African societies to cope with the challenges they faced, and consider them in its emancipation and economic revival project, yet without neglecting the new situation imposed by globalisation. To this end, extensive research works and refined analyses are necessary in order to arrive at a better understanding of the situation and come up with a brighter outlook for African economies.
During the two-day conference, researchers will be invited to take stock of the evolution of African economies over the past decade and to identify trends for years to come. In doing so, discussions will focus on challenges and structural constraints that the continent will face in the coming decade in particular. A clear vision and critical analyses are encouraged so as to challenge classical theories and analyses promoted by international financial institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the majority of developed countries.
The themes to be covered by the conference include:
1. Competitiveness and revival of African economies;
2. African economies in the face of emerging countries;
3. World trade and the revival of African economies;
4. African agriculture in the face of new challenges posed by the world trade;
5. The industrialisation process in Africa in the face of the challenges of the global economy;
6. The political dimension of the African renaissance and economic reforms;
7. International economic institutions and the revival of African economies;
8. Regional integration and revival of African economies;
9. The renaissance and the revival of African economies in the context of globalisation;
10. Global economic governance and revival of African economies;
11. Pan-Africanism and renaissance of African economies ;
12. The role and place of trade and investment in the renaissance and revival of African economies;
13. The Diaspora and the renaissance and revival of African economies ;
14. Migrations and revival of African economies ;
15. NEPAD and the renaissance of African economies;
16. The revival of African economies and climate change.