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UN trade body says Africa must embrace sustainable economy
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) June 13, 2012

Africa has abundant natural resources to kickstart its economy, but it needs to use them in a sustainable manner and requires outside help to develop, UN agency UNCTAD warned on Wednesday.

"Africa is so rich and filled with resources but it is exporting them; what it should do is use more resources more efficiently and transform itself into a higher production economy," UNCTAD director general Supachai Panitchpakdi told reporters.

Speaking at the UN Conference on Trade and Development's launch of its 2012 report on Africa, Panitchpakdi said that the continent's consumption of resources was half the global average.

This indicated that the need for change is "very urgent", he said, since the African economy is still too dependent on agriculture.

However Panitchpakdi added that Africa's relative lack of industrialisation could turn out to be in its favour, since it meant new technological advances could be embraced easily.

He called on developed countries to help Africa, since nearly $24 billion alone is required between now and 2030 merely to ensure that the continent's people have access to electricity.

But he warned that foreign direct investment had to be monitored carefully.

"We need to have concerted, active and deliberate policies from states. This cannot be left to the markets, it must be directed by government," he said.

The director general said that although Africa "could afford to" export its resources at the moment, the continent's governments should embrace durable alternatives in such fields as energy provision now, or risk making the same mistakes as other industrialised countries have done in the past.

The UNCTAD report gives guidelines at a national level to assist states in the creation of sustainable development.

Countries including Kenya, Mauritius and South Africa are shown in the report to have made progress in adopting durable economic solutions in energy production and greater land productivity.

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