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Africa: Governance Gets New Emphasis At Economic Forum
Source: allafrica.com
Source Date: Thursday, May 16, 2013
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Created: May 16, 2013

Cape Town — The call for transparency and good governance across Africa is not a new one, but it assumed a new prominence at this month's World Economic Forum (WEA) regional meeting for Africa. In session after session, and in conversations outside formal presentations, attendees tied Africa's economic performance and its delivery on social and development goals to competent and responsive governing.

Africa Progress Report 2013 says good governance will help Africa out of poverty, joblessness and inequality. It echoes last year's report, when the panel warned that growing inequality threatens to end Africa's growth - and that despite an improving economy overall on the continent, levels of inequality continue to increase.

The 2013 report, launched at WEF Africa, said the continent's natural resources could help millions of people on the continent.

"Africa's resource wealth can lift millions out of poverty; it can build shared prosperity and bring hope to future generations. It is imminently possible - we can do it," said Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary general and chair of the African progress Panel."

"But," Annan warned, "it will take bold leadership, and it means building up proper governance, solidifying democracy, embracing transparency and accountability and strengthening governance, institutions and the rule of law."

The report documents how bad governance and corruption is crippling Africa's development and keeping the continent consistently on the foreign aid list. According to the report, Africa loses twice as much to corruption as it receives in foreign aid.

In an interview, Annan said "Africa has a possibility to really take charge of its own economic destiny but it would take good governance, determination to get more value for money, to get more of the revenues that accrue from the extractive industries and use that for the improvement of the African people for that to happen."

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, a co-chair of the Forum, called for better governance in the private sector, as well as among political leaders. With his wealth derived from starting a pioneering cellular telephone company, he established the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, whose primary aim is promoting good governance in Africa.

In Cape Town, Ibrahim said that a lack of transparency among both governments and the corporate sector is hampering poverty alleviation.

"We cannot have good governance in the public sector without good governance in the private sector. Business people are at the forefront of those who are raising the issue in the public area," Ibrahim said.

The World Bank Institute is tackling the issue of good governance in the private sector through its Private Sector Engagement for Good Governance programme. It offers a framework to, among other things, increase transparency, accountability and access to information.

"Accountability and transparency are key, Annan said. "The United States and Europe are demanding new transparency from companies that work in Africa. We must also take responsibility."

Annan said African governments have become more open and big business may have improved their ways of working. "But we as Africans must do much more to demand more transparency from Africa's leaders and foreign investors," Annan said, noting that Africa's resources, like oil, gas, platinum and gold, offer many opportunities that are not well utilized.

"The first order of business is to make sure that Africa gets economic policy and governance right, said Jack Leslie who chairs Weber Shandwick, an international public relations firm, which is promoting 'engagement' across its practice. "I think Africa is working through that in different ways and at a different pace, as all countries are at a different stage of development."

While citizens of Africa's diverse nations wait for more of their leaders to heed the call, practice good governance, deliver services and see their people reap the rewards of the continent's vast potential, Annan issues a challenge: Let us "imagine an Africa where its leaders use mineral wealth wisely to fund better health, education and infrastructure".
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