Madame Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund Managing Director has called on policy makers in sub-Saharan African countries to consider a wide range of issues that had the tendency to destabilize their economies in the near future if not checked now during policy making.
Speaking at the Future of Work Conference in Accra during her two-day State visit, she noted that it was prudent that sometimes one needed to step into the future, look back from there at the present, and gain a new perspective on how to tackle both today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.
According to the IMF Boss, sub-Saharan Africa has seen relatively robust growth for almost two decades which has led to the creation of almost 9 million jobs per year since 2000, on par with the rise in the labor force.
The IMF Boss who was the former Minister of Economic Affairs in the government of Dominique de Villepin in France also mentioned three major forces that had the tendency to shape the sub region in terms of economic growth in the coming decades.
“Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is expected to increase from 1 billion today, to 1.7 billion by 2040.The labor force will increase at a double the rate of the last decade. As a result, sub-Saharan Africa needs to create 20 million jobs per year to keep up with its growing labor force and this is the force called demographics” She disclosed.
Madame Lagarde noted that if the sub-region could march its high population growth with jobs for the labor force, then the so-called demographic dividend could be enjoyed.
Again she touched on technology as the next force and hinted that advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics were poised to dramatically transform the job market.
To avert the fears that automation would replace humans in variety of tasks, leading to job losses and rising inequality, the IMF MD advocated for strong policy action and underscored the need to run with the machines rather than against them.
The third force Madame Lagarde introduced was the climate change that was expected to hit low-income countries the hardest: a 1-degree Celsius rise in temperature that could cause low-income countries to experience a 1.5 percent fall in GDP on average.
This according to her meant that Ghana without mitigating measures, rising temperatures and changing humidity levels may threaten cocoa production which would negatively impact on her export base and the livelihood of tens of thousands of farmers.
Madame Lagarde advised that African leaders had to respond to the challenging external environment by taking decisive actions to boost regional trade, which in turn would help cushion the negative effects for the region’s citizens.
“Aside education, digital connectivity and digital infrastructure, sub-Saharan Africa must also embrace innovations that can improve productivity, reduce the power of middlemen, and enable farmers to gain a large share of the market value so as to serve as incentive for others to venture into farming” the former member of the French national team noted.
She ended by praising the government of Ghana on the recently introduced ambitious free Senior High School program and revealed that this program could play a pivotal role in improving educational outcomes if implemented in a sustainable way. END