On March 24, 2018, Antoinette Sayeh gave the afternoon keynote speech at Harvard University’s 9th Annual African Development Conference. She highlighted four immediate economic challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa, what they mean for the long-term, and the need for timely multi-faceted action to address them.
From the speech:
As formidable as they are, the four challenges I’ve laid out do not necessarily imply long-term doom-and-gloom for sub-Saharan Africa. That said, the missteps and tardy policy adjustments over the past three years mean that the region is not yet adequately preparing the ground to exploit potential new opportunities in the global economy. Nor is it effectively positioning itself to reap the much-heralded demographic dividend some 20 years hence. So rather than higher economic growth being driven by a large increase in the share of the working age population as a result of the demographic transition, the region—and alas the world—instead risks having massive levels of un-and-under-employment as well as dire social conditions that propel massive migration and political instability.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is clearly an outcome we must all work tirelessly to avert. So, how can these risks be mitigated and this grim scenario be avoided? And what are the responsibilities of sub-Saharan African policymakers?
Let me speak to these questions by commenting on the three sets of policies needed to strengthen the economic recovery in the region: addressing debt vulnerabilities, an emphasis on revenue mobilization, and fostering economic diversification.
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