[Dateline: Addis Ababa | Author: Economic Commission for Africa]
For the seventy Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) staff members who experienced last week the legendary hospitality of Lilongwe, it was opportunity to contribute to the outcome of an important meeting and to meet a cherished and respected former colleague, Dr. Bingu Wa Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi, the host country, and current Chairperson of the African Union. Dr. Mutharika served the United Nations beginning in 1978 before entering national political life in Malawi.
ECA staff have returned to their Headquarters in Addis Ababa with a sense of pride in the collective efforts leading to the adoption of policy decisions to inspire and shape Africa’s development agenda. "Zikomo Kwambiri!" - the Chichewa expression for "Thank you!" was often heard, and reciprocated, by the Commission's staff working in Lilongwe.
However dry the formal title of the Lilongwe meeting - "the 43rd session of the Commission/Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development ", its proceedings were animated by the resolve voiced by President Mutharika that "five years from now Africa must be able to feed itself and no child in Africa should die of hunger, malnutrition or starvation. This is the African battle cry. This is your battle cry."
It is a battle which, as the meeting's Declaration notes, demands further development of both human skills and physical infrastructure as well as enhancing technological innovation. As Under-Secretary-General and ECA’s Executive Secretary Abdoulie Janneh noted in his remarks, "it is encouraging to observe the improved outlook for Africa this year with growth estimated at 4.3%, which is a remarkable improvement from 1.6% achieved last year. This rate is however significantly lower than the rate required to halve poverty by 2015."
Substantive reports and research by ECA staff, together with experienced attention to detail in areas such as protocol, logistics and transport, among others, were acknowledged to have significantly contributed to the purposeful and organized meeting.
And ECA staff are working to ensure that the momentum of the meeting is sustained once it is over. The Commission has, for instance, started the "Science in Africa" Conference series, the second session of which will take place in Addis Ababa just over two months from now.