'African countries should direct economic growth to new sectors'

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​Nairobi, July 23 (IANS) African countries affected by the massive drop in the global prices of oil should direct trade policies to new sectors, a UN official said.

Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), made the appeal at the close of a major ministerial conference in Nairobi on

Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The drop in oil and gas prices and other minerals had left most countries in Africa with huge debts and could lead to political instability in others, said the UN official.

"These countries should take notice of these low commodity prices to diversify their economies," Kituyi said while ending the week long ministerial conference.

Nigeria, one of the countries affected by the low international oil prices, has seen economic growth drop from 6.3 per cent in 2014 to 2.7 per cent currently, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Speaking fresh from a new mandate handed to the UN trade body at the conference to aid the world in developing new policies, analysing their trends and impact on trade and development, Kituyi said the UN agency was more eager to contribute to the economic growth of the world.

"We leave Nairobi with a strengthened mandate to demonstrate our fidelity to Agenda 2030. We hold this success dear to us," Kituyi said following the announcement of a new UN declaration by 143 out of 194 ministers who attended the Nairobi trade talks to examine the role of UNCTAD.

President of the 14th session of the UNCTAD Amina Mohamed, Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, said the Nairobi Declaration provided the UN body with authority to champion development.

Mohamed said UNCTAD will now be able to address challenges the countries are facing as a result of the drop in oil and commodity prices.

"They will be able to address the challenges to the commodity markets and to support the countries through the provision of policy analysis, setting the trade targets and monitoring the implementation of the Agenda 2030 --the UN anti-poverty eradication strategy," Mohamed told reporters.

The agreement announced at the conference emphasises the need for countries to be assisted to address special trade, investment and development needs.

Under the broad mandate handed to UNCTAD, the UN agency is required to continue supporting middle-income countries, especially those facing distress from the recent impact of low economic growth.​

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