56th UNECA Session, Zimbabwe’s free take aways for Africa Professor Mthuli Ncube

Kaelin Choto, Correspondent 

Economic independence for Africa has for long been on the cards as a means to undo the fiscal vices that entangle the continent, cutting back on meaningful and collective progress and production.

Zimbabwe has been an active proponent to this school of thought given the brunt experience with deliberate and illegal economic embargoes she has had to deal with over the past two decades. 

Nevertheless, the 56th Session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to be held in Victoria Falls, becomes the latest premier podium for Africa to cross pollinate ideas on stirring around her economic fortunes.

The conference kicked off in Victoria Falls yesterday (February 28) and will run until March 5, 2024, under the theme, “Financing the transition to inclusive green economies in Africa: imperatives, opportunities and policy options.” 

The honour for Zimbabwe to host African Ministers of Finance comes at an opportune time when Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion, Professor Mthuli Ncube, was crowned the best Finance Minister in Africa for the year 2023.

Certainly, Africa has a lesson or two to pick from Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls, the host city of the conference presents a plethora of take aways for Africa. The city has rapidly developed, as both a tourist destination and an economic hub as evidenced by the Second Republic’s necessitation of the launch of the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange (VFEX). VFEX’s existence speaks to ECA’s theme of financing transition into green economies. 

In that regard, on October 25, 2023, VFEX kick started an awareness campaign in preparation for carbon trading on the exchange, a development that also speaks to the rapid growth of commercial activities in the resort destination.

Thus, Zimbabwe is leading the game in green economy. 

The country’s agricultural sector is also booming as evidenced by the production of surplus wheat, efforts towards food security at family, communal and national level. This includes ‘Pfumvudza/Intwasa’ scientific capacity utilisation of small communal farming lands and the smart agriculture which Government adopted at national level. Ahead of the conference, Prof Ncube took time to dish out a few lessons to Africa at a press conference recently held in South Africa. He urged his fellow Finance Ministers to desist from granting tax rebates to mining companies and offering them Special Economic Zones. He punctuated his clarion call by insisting that among the imperatives, African governments ought to push for beneficiation, an exercise they can commence via wide consultations.

Delving into carbon credits, Prof Ncube advised that the best way African countries could ensure wide spectrum of growth would be by also widely consulting on feasible domestic frameworks. This is inclusive of engaging specific and reputable auditors who can authenticate real and final buyers that pay more. 

He added that it was also imperative that locals where a particular economic activity is being carried out directly benefit from the proceeds.

Thus, the conference will also provide a platform to attract public and private investments towards green initiatives, potentially unlocking new funding streams for sustainable development projects across Africa. Moreover, the discussions could lead to the creation or improvement of national and regional policy frameworks that support the transition to green economies. These policies will encourage green investments, promote sustainable practices and create new economic opportunities.

Additionally, the 56th Session of Uneca would strengthen regional cooperation. Regional partnerships will have an opportunity to share resources, expertise and technologies for climate change. By prioritising environmental sustainability, economic inclusivity and innovative solutions, African nations can pave the way for a more prosperous, resilient and equitable future.

One of the key takeaways from the session would be the emphasis on leveraging technology to accelerate Africa’s development trajectory. 

Zimbabwe, recognising the transformative power of digital innovation, is expected to showcase its efforts to bridge the digital divide and harness the potential of e-commerce. 

By sharing its success stories and lessons learned, Zimbabwe will also inspire other African countries to embrace digital transformation as a driver of economic empowerment and social inclusion.

Recently, Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary, Claver Gatete, said the Conference would aim to infuse climate financing and technological advancement to forge solutions to the economic challenges faced by African States. He added that technology should promote and improve achievement of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Thus, in the years to come, as Africa embarked on its journey towards Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals, the impact of Zimbabwe’s 56th ECA Session would be felt in every corner of the continent. Zimbabwe’s generosity, leadership and commitment to Africa’s shared prosperity would remain etched in the annals of history, serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come.

As a nation with a large informal sector, Zimbabwe could have an opportunity to share its experiences in formalising activities and integrating them into the mainstream economy. This could involve showcasing successful policies, capacity-building programs and digital solutions for informal businesses. 

More so, the country’s emphasis on education and skills development, particularly in Stem fields may serve as a reminder for other African nations to prioritise human capital investment as a driver of sustainable development.

Sharing experiences in curriculum development, vocational training programs and skills-matching initiatives would be valuable.

Likewise, the exposure that would be gained from hosting such a high-profile event would help the country to dispel lingering perceptions of Zimbabwe as a politically unstable or economically stagnant nation. Instead, the world will witness a vibrant and dynamic country eager to embrace its potential and chart a course towards prosperity.

The Uneca Conference is in tandem with Government’s engagement and re-engagement policy, which is essential for boosting cooperation among African nations. As such, by actively sharing its experiences and collaborating with other African nations, Zimbabwe can play a significant role in driving positive change and development across the continent.

Conclusively, the 56th Session of the Uneca will present a wealth of knowledge and opportunities for African nations. The gathering will indeed mark a turning point in Zimbabwe and other African countries’ economic fortunes.

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