HESPI conference on IGAD Economies

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The Annual HESPI Conference on IGAD Economies was held on September 24-26, 2017 at the Mamoun Beheiry Center (MBC) in Khartoum, Sudan . The three-day conference on the theme “Youth Unemployment and Creating Opportunities through Trade and Investment in the IGAD” was jointly organized by HESPI, ACBF, MBC, UNECA and IGAD Secretariat. Over 21 research papers were discussed and presented by a distinguished group of academics/professionals from and outside IGAD. Ambassador Peter Robleh, Board Chairman of HESPI, gave opening remarks followed by, Dr. Ali Issa, the Managing Director, who highlighted how the annual Conferences on IGAD Economies help decision-makers exchange views on the region’s economic and social issues. Dr. Ali stressed the factors contributing to youth unemployment by highlighting the lack of adequate skills, education, experience, economic opportunity, dysfunctional national institutions, endemic insecurity, instability, inadequate policies, and low expansion in trade and investment as core problems. As a result, he stated that among the aims of the conference was to come up with trade and investment policies strong enough to promote employment. The exigency of bringing youth unemployment to light was also supported by his Excellency Magdi Hassan, Sudanese Minister of Finance, who underscored the timeliness of the conference theme and the significance of conveying it in policy-oriented fora. He pointed that institutional constraints, such as uncompetitive educational systems, have distanced the youth from reaping their fair share in the labor markets. The Minister further stated that besides governments’ commitment to devise and implement appropriate budgetary support to education, enhancement of investment and trade is also key to youth employment. While some IGAD members are now among the highest growing economies in the world, Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, the Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist of the UNECA, stated that the region is also one of the most unstable with massive unemployment challenges. He highlighted the over-dependence on low-value primary commodities as one of the contributors to the challenge and advised IGAD countries to enhance intra-regional trade by strengthening regional cluster integration and lowering the cost of trade to maximize the potential of a large and growing international market in the sub region. Mr. ElSadig Abdalla, Director of Economic Cooperation and Social Development, of the IGAD Secretariat, noted the challenges of utilizing the youth which constitute over 60% of the region’s population, and also suggested focusing on trade and investment to alleviate this issue. The conference was commended by Professor Munzoul Assal, Executive Director of the MBC, and Dr. Robert Natchouang, from the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), who stated that such collaboration symbolized the development commitment of the region’s actors. Dr. Natchouang also voiced his concerns regarding youth migration and added that the absence of young local talent will continue to impede the continent’s development unless Africa changes course.