Experts from 14 regional countries including Rwanda will this week deliberate on how they can consolidate the strong performance of the region while ensuring the economic transformation needed to reduce poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
This will be during the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) which meets in Moroni, Comoros, next week. It is organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in partnership with the government of Comoros.
“This will constitute an excellent opportunity for experts from the region to discuss some of the major bottlenecks and catalysts for growth,” said Andrew Mold, the acting director of the ECA sub-regional office in Eastern Africa.
“There is also a special session dedicated to discussing the development trajectory of the host country, during which ECA’s Comoros profile will be presented. The session will focus on the country’s long-term growth strategy, and opportunities in the tourism and energy sectors.”
According to the Commission, the growth rate of Eastern African countries has been among the fastest in the world in recent years, averaging 6.8 per cent between 2012 and 2015. However, it is noted that in 2016 and 2017, the regional growth rate declined to 5.6 per cent.
The evolution of per capita income growth has reportedly been much more modest while instability has increased, and the meeting will focus on different sectors that constitute either catalysts or constraints to growth and structural transformation.
It is noted that the expansion of the tourism sector, the vast potential of the Blue Economy – the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health – and recent large-scale investments in infrastructure represent some of the main opportunities to be discussed.
Experts will also try to propose solutions to tackle the relative weakness of the private sector, the lack of credit flowing from the banking sector and the challenges of exchange rate management.
As such, ECA hopes that the meeting will lead to a consensus on best practices and policies to consolidate transformative growth in Eastern Africa.
For the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Eastern Africa is composed of 14 countries: Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
Organisers say the first ICE meeting held in the Comoros will bring together about 150 participants – economic experts, governments officials, the private sector, and academics – for three days of discussions on how to make policy more effective.
The projected growth rate of the sub-region in 2017 is 5.6 per cent.
As noted, this is the same as that recorded last year, remaining well above the average of the African continent, estimated at 3.1 per cent this year, but down from the strong performance achieved between 2012 and 2015.
The region, it is noted, has attained one of the highest regional growth rates in the world.
During the meeting, ECA will present an analysis of macroeconomic and social developments in the region
Among others, there will be discussions centered on tourism development for structural transformation.
Tourism is seen as a great facilitator of structural transformation.
It is noted that in a number of countries in the sub-region, tourism has become the leading foreign exchange earner, and it is also a major creator of employment opportunities yet the region still has enormous (and largely untapped) potential.
A session on tourism development will provide an overview of the tourism market, and discuss ways in which its potential can be fully harnessed to further the development goals of the region.
The number of people employed in the tourism sector in Eastern Africa is 6.3 million.
In recent years, according to ECA, tourism has experienced particularly dynamic growth and the sector is becoming increasingly important for the economies of the region.
The sector is one of the potential catalysts for growth that will be discussed during the ICE, alongside the ‘blue economy’ and large-scale infrastructure investment.
Rwanda recently became one of the three East African countries that offer tourists a ‘Big 5’ experience, having reintroduced both lions and eastern black rhinoceros into Akagera National Park. Besides this and other initiatives, in 2016, Rwanda created its fourth national park – Gishwati-Mukura National Park.
Rwanda’s mountain gorillas are reportedly the best studied gorillas in the world.
The country developed an ambitious strategy to increase buffer zones to protected areas.
The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) projects that the sector will fetch about $444 million (about Rwf370 billion) in 2017, up from $404 million last year.
The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) report of 2016 put Rwanda third in Africa in terms of capacity to host international meetings.