African middle-income countries urged to invest in human capital

ADDIS ABABA, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) — African middle-income countries have been urged to produce the necessary human capital that is needed to promote innovation-driven socio-economic growth.

The call was made by policymakers, development practitioners and experts attending a webinar on “Addressing Gaps and Challenges in Africa’s Middle-Income Countries” organized by the UN Economic Commission of for Africa (UNECA), the UNECA said in a statement issued Monday.

The meeting underscored the issues of strengthening human capital and public debt as the two critical challenges that African middle-income countries are currently facing, the statement said.

“It is important for countries to focus on the skills of the future and address new forms of education. New technologies must determine the how, what, and who of training to increase middle-income countries’ ability to escape the middle-income trap,” it quoted Zuzana Brixiova Schwidrowski, director of the UNECA Office in North Africa, as saying.

According to the UNECA, the lack of human capital is a key aspect of the middle-income trap, which necessitates countries to shift to innovation-driven growth, which in turn requires adequate human capital.

The UNECA said improvements are needed for middle-income African countries to be able to facilitate the development of new sectors, promote sustainable structural transformation, and seize the opportunities provided by the fourth industrial revolution to achieve the desired high-income status.

It said multiple crises have brought about rising debt stock and costs and less favorable financing conditions for middle-income countries compared to other countries.

It said despite some differences in key characteristics, African middle-income countries and those from around the world are confronted with similar challenges in their struggle to reach sustainable growth, implement the Sustainable Development Goals, and improve their populations’ living standards and well-being.

According to the UNECA, the meeting was held in preparation for the international conference on middle-income countries scheduled in Marrakech, the fourth largest city in Morocco in February next year.

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The meeting provided policymakers, development practitioners, and academics with a platform to share their experiences and views on the two critical challenges that African middle-income countries are currently facing, the UNECA said.

The meeting further discussed the options and reforms, including debt restructuring, that can provide the countries with enhanced fiscal space while reducing the risk of debt crisis, it said.

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