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AU-UNECA Ministerial Meetings Consider State’s Role in Economic Transformation, Green Economy

29 March 2011: The Joint Annual Ministerial Meetings of the African Union (AU) Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development were held from 28-29 March 2011, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The concept of a green economy was the subject of a panel discussion and a statement from Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The meetings, which were the fourth of such joint meetings held under the auspices of the AU and UNECA, convened under the theme “Governing Development in Africa: The Role of the State in Economic Transformation.”

The Ministerial Meetings were preceded by a Meeting of the Committee of Experts, which met from 24-27 March 2011, in preparation for the Ministerial Meetings. The Committee of Experts produced a draft consensual framework on the role of the State in governing development in Africa, as well as a series of recommendations, which were considered by the Finance, Economic and Planning, and Health and Environment Ministers attending the Ministerial Meetings.

On the theme of the Ministerial Meetings, the Committee of Experts recommended that African governments should promote developmental States that would: transform their political systems from rent-seeking to developmental systems; restructure their economies to ensure sustained diversification of the production and export base; and restructure bureaucratic incentives away from rent-seeking to facilitative, pro-growth and pro-poor allocation of resources. The experts also recommended that African governments should mainstream the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into their national development plans and strategies, and set up monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure their effective implementation. These and other recommendations were considered by the Ministerial Meetings.

In addition, green economy panelists speaking at the Ministerial Meetings highlighted that national and regional policies and institutions, private sector participation and the availability of funds such as the African Development Bank's Green Fund, are critical for the success of a green economy. They further explained, “the green economy is about how all sectors of the economy could lead to a more viable economic growth path by de-linking economic growth from environmental degradation and social exclusion.”

Achim Steiner moderated the panel discussion on green economy, and highlighted that Africa has many opportunities for building a green economy that, inter alia, generates decent jobs in an environmentally-sustainable way. Pointing out that the continent is rich in all kinds of natural resources, as well as in natural fuels such as wind, solar and geothermal, Steiner underscored that, “The fundamental question is how will all this potential be harvested for the benefit of Africa's citizens and in a way that promotes stability in Africa and beyond.” He further noted that the green economy is not a substitute for sustainable development, but a way of realizing it. [Meeting Website] [UNECA Press Release] [UN Press Release]