Finance Minister Tendai Biti and his Economic Planning and Investment Promotion counterpart Tapiwa Mashakada had been expected to attend the fourth joint annual meeting of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) ministers of Finance and Economic Planning.
But the two had to send representatives because parliament was voting on Tuesday afternoon in a poll where Zanu PF and MDC- T needed all their representatives to be present.
Biti and Mashakada’s presence in Harare helped MDC-T chairman Lovemore Moyo regain his seat as he beat Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo but deprived Zimbabwe of a strong political voice in Addis Ababa.
Officially opening the conference on Monday, African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping blasted countries that were not taking continental forums seriously as shown by their absence.
The ministers discussed various issues including the setting up of institutions such as an African monetary fund, which might eventually lead to a single currency for the continent.
The conference organised under the theme: Governing development in Africa, debated the need for a new economic model for the continent that will see the State playing a more central role in development.
Experts said the shift in the development paradigm was necessitated by the failure of Western prescribed economic structural adjustment programmes.
Guinea Finance minister Kerfala Yamsane, the new chairperson of bureau of the conference, said this year’s event represented a watershed in the continent’s future.
“It was remarkable in view of the number of ministers who attended,” he said.
“This was about putting things back in place in the development matrix of our countries and it’s a milestone in the future of Africa.”
The major concern at the conference was that although some African countries had recorded positive growth, their achievements were not translating to poverty reduction and employment creation.
African Development Bank (AfDB) president Donald Kaberuka said the failure of economic models were to be blame for the current turmoil in North Africa.
Egypt and Tunisia have seen dictatorships falling in the last few months while long serving Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi is fighting a rebellion engineered by people disgruntled by unending poverty.
“When growth is not inclusive, as we can see from North Afica, it is neither economically, nor politically sustainable and will only lead to frustrations and social explosion,” Kaberuka said.
“It follows therefore that governing development must begin with a search for endogenous solutions but solutions which find consensus in the general populace.”
The event also saw the launch of the Economic Report on Africa 2011 titled: Governing development in Africa – the role of the State in economic transformation.
It shows that the continent registered an economic growth rate of 4.7% in 2010 and projects another positive expansion of 5% this year.
The growth will be driven by a rebound in exports demand and commodity prices as well as increased inflows of foreign direct investment in extractive industries and aid.
The report also notes that since independence, most African countries had failed to achieve any sustained economic growth and transformation.
It suggests that “successful economic transformation in emerging economies in Asia and Latin America was achieved by deliberate State intervention, based on a disciplined planning process that included the formulation of relevant development policies, provision of the required investment and creation of appropriate institutions.”