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Africa must be pushed to the next level

28 October 2013, 19:37 Fin24

Johannesburg – Africa has seen high levels of economic growth over the last decade, however that growth has had limited impact on boosting competitiveness and increasing the quality of life of ordinary people on the continent.

Weaknesses persist in the quality of institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic policies, education and adoption of new technologies.

There are also big gaps between its highest and lowest ranked economies.

These challenges will be in the spotlight at the African Economic Conference taking place in Johannesburg this week.

Heads of state and business and development experts from across the world are gathering to discuss regional integration and its role in boosting economic growth and human well-being on the continent.

“This great gathering should do more than restate the case for regional integration. It must examine how to push the African continent to the next level, to become a global growth pole in its own right,” said Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank.

“At a time of diminishing multilateral solutions, this is the sure way to build resilience against external shocks."

He is happy with the steady progress that has been made in areas such as tariff reduction.

"Robust action is what is now needed on non-tariff barriers, trade facilitation and the movement of people," he said.

"Africa has the political will and the strategic vision to make this happen. The time is right.”

Because of its focus on capital-intensive, commodity-based industries, Africa has seen limited economic transformation.

There has been little investment in the manufacturing, services and agricultural sectors.

Due to these limitations, the creation of jobs, markets and institutions required to help the youth build a better future have lagged behind.

Broader definition

“There needs to be a much broader definition of regional economic integration. True, regional integration must include investments in regional infrastructure, trade and labour mobility," said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Africa.

"But countries would also gain by harmonising regulations and standards, devising common approaches to macroeconomic policy, job creation, and effective management of shared natural resources for sustainable poverty reduction and structural economic transformation."

While the benefits of integration are well-known and many of the legal frameworks are in place, the biggest challenge is how to further that agenda.

Among the major hurdles are harmonising standards and regulations, boosting human resource capacities and mobilising leadership and political will.

“It is undeniable that regional integration will impel Africa to economic transformation and industrialization," said Abdalla Hamdok, the deputy executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.

"Capitalising on natural resources and industrialisation can swiftly add value to the continent’s exports and, therefore, stimulate job creation.”

- Fin24


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