UN urges good management of African resources for economic growth

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African governments must ensure transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources, including oil, to generate revenue for growth through diversifying economies, a United Nations official told delegates at an industrial policy conference in Ghana today.

“African leaders must have bold visions and good planning,” Kandeh K. Yumkella, the Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), told delegates attending the two-day conference in Accra entitled “Competitiveness and Diversification: Strategic Challenges in a Petroleum-Rich Economy.”

“Ambition is the catalyst that can propel African leaders to bring about structural changes and create wealth and opportunities for decent jobs on a sustainable basis, as well as the right infrastructure, and add value to natural resources,” said Mr. Yumkella.

He called for a bold development agenda in Africa in the next 20 years to restructure and diversify economies beyond dependence on oil and gas, to avoid the so-called “Dutch disease.”

The “Dutch disease” or the “resource curse” refers to increasing dependency on the exploitation of natural resources at the expense of developing a manufacturing sector.

Africa countries “must make sure the new wealth does not destroy the old one. Africa must develop manufacturing to become competitive on a global scale,” said Mr. Yumkella.

At a meeting with the President of Ghana, John Atta Mills, Mr. Yumkella urged the West African country to become “a model” for the sub-region. “A stable democracy coupled with the oil find could turn the country into an economic powerhouse,” he said.

Industrialization policy, he added, should include agribusiness and agro-industries as extra engines of economic growth.