Published on 18 Nov 2022

NCPA Distinguished Speaker Series Lecture by Dr Arkebe Oqubay


Nanyang Centre for Public Administration’s (NCPA) Distinguished Speaker Series lecture by Dr Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, entitled “Asian Transformation and Global South Cooperation”, was held on 11 November 2022 at the auditorium of the Nanyang Executive Centre. Professor Liu Hong, NTU Associate Vice President, International and Director of NCPA, was the moderator for the lecture.

Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, maintaining close ties and cooperation with China. Dr Arkebe Oqubay is a Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and has been closely engaged in the work of policymaking and implementation in the past more than thirty years. He was the former Mayor of Addis Ababa and winner of the Best African Mayor of 2006 award presented by ABN and was a finalist World Mayor Award 2006, for transforming the city. He holds a PhD in development studies from SOAS, University of London, and has various publications with the Oxford University Press.


Dr Arkebe is not only a highly regarded administrator but also a renowned academic. He is Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg (South Africa), and a Visiting Professor at Sciences Po (Paris). He is a UNU-WIDER Honorary Research Fellow, a Distinguished Fellow at the London-based think-tank, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and a Research Associate at the Centre of African Studies at the University of London. He is also the founder and chair of Policy Research Dialogue for Africa, an initiative that promotes the economic transformation, sustainable development, and economic governance of developing countries.

In his welcome remarks, Professor Liu Hong shared that he was acquainted with Dr Arkebe at an academic conference in London in 2019. Dr Arkebe's erudition and original insights into economic development and policy-making in the Global South left a deep impression. And he invited Dr Arkebe to Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. This was nevertheless delayed for over two years due to the Covid situation.

Dr Arkebe's speech centered around three aspects: the economic transformation of Asia (especially China and Singapore) from another perspective, the road to economic transformation in Africa; the cooperation between Asia, Africa, and the global South. Dr Arkebe believed that the development experience of Asia's transformation is apparent in the three areas.

First, structural transformation is the key driver. Manufacturing serves to promote economic growth, technological advancement and full employment. Technological change and economic development also drive social transformation.

Second, industrial policy serves as a vehicle to drive structural transformation and economic growth. Diverse developmental paths, proactive industrial policies, development state structure as well as effective policy learning and pragmatism will be advantageous to the economic development of a late-comer economy. Third, green economic development. The transformation of green energy and infrastructure, as well as the paradigm shift of technological, economic, political, and social elements, are all important factors for the development of a green economy.

In conclusion, Dr. Arkebe emphasized the need to move beyond Eurocentrism and analyze developments in the Global South from the internal perspective of Africa's own diversity and uniqueness. Economic development depends on the ability and determination of a country and its citizens to achieve it. Even as late comers, they can also achieve development.

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During the Q & A segment, the professors, professionals, and students of the NCPA’s postgraduate programmes engaged in robust conversations, where Dr Arkebe also shared his views and insights one by one. Professor Liu Hong commented that this public lecture was a unique learning opportunity to a deeper understanding of Africa. He also encouraged students to have the opportunity to understand the opportunities for African economic development and explore the land of Africa, and the infinite possibilities of China-Africa cooperation.

The NCPA Distinguished Speaker Series Lecture was established in October 2017 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of NCPA’s development. The invited speakers are reputable personnel from public and private organizations, who are notable in their respective fields. The previous four speakers were former Vice President of the World Bank, famous economist, Professor Justin Yifu Lin; former President of the American Institute of Public Administration and former Director of the US Federal Bureau of Personnel, Ms Janice Lachance; Professor Subra Suresh, President of Nanyang Technological University; and Mr Lim Swee Say, former Minister of Manpower of Singapore. The content of the series of lectures covers topics such as globalization, public management, and social governance.

This year, NCPA celebrates its 30th anniversary of development. As one of the series of celebration activities, this lecture attracted more than 200 participants. This is also the first large-scale physical event held by the Centre since the outbreak of the epidemic. The highlight of the celebration would be the Lien Development Conference held on 25 and 26 November 2022, and the Double Celebration Gala Dinner on the evening of the 25 November 2022.