By Addis Getachew and Seleshi Tessema
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary Vera Songwe has warned of widespread reaction from the youth to corruption in Africa, which is "eating away" at the continent's economies.
Songwe's remarks came during her speech at the executive council meeting of the African Union in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Thursday.
As corrupt practices continue in Africa, including the illicit financial outflows from which Africa loses $50 billion annually, "the youth are watching", she said.
"For Africa, we project a pickup in growth to 3.5 percent in 2018 and 3.7 percent in 2019, underpinned by strengthening external demand and a moderate increase in commodity prices," she added.
However, Songwe said, "the African Union itself has estimated that every year over $148 billion are drained out of the continent through various corrupt activities and acts, representing about 25 percent of Africa’s GDP growth.
"It is estimated that an increase of corruption by about one index point reduces a country’s GDP growth by 0.13 percentage points."
AU foreign ministers are meeting to set the agenda for the upcoming assembly of heads of state and government slated for Sunday.
The summit takes up the theme: Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa's Transformation.
However, many say conflict and security concerns may overshadow the theme during the summit as the continent grapples with active conflict in South Sudan, Libya, Nigeria and the Sahel region.
Reform of the pan-African body and financing of its operations also top the agenda.
Earlier, Rwandan President Paul Kagami proposed a 0.2 percent levy on imports as membership contributions to enhance the financial capacity of the AU.
Speaking at the opening, African Union Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat emphasized that the pan-Africa body should have financial independence.
"Africa is nothing without its financial independence," he said.
The chairman added Africa was in shock following recent expletive-laden remarks of U.S. President Donald about the continent.
The leaders are expected to issue a declaration on the remarks which Mahamat described as "spiteful".