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Delegates at the three-day African Business and Investments Forum held over the weekend in the Algerian capital, Algiers, have once again urged business and political leaders in Africa to remove barriers that limit countries across the continent from trading with each other.
Described by organisers as the first of its kind in the country and elegantly called the ‘Algiers Rendezvous’, the meeting attracted about 1000 participants from more than 40 African countries.
Its discussions have focused on how to stimulate and promote intra-African trade and partnerships, good governance for pro-growth public-private partnerships, and promoting continental integration through joint infrastructure projects and human capital development.
But with current global economic fortunes dwindling, the delegates have called for more intra-Africa trade and more African solidarity to unleash the continent’s economic potential and prosperity.
Ali Haddad, president of the Algerian CEOs’ forum which co-organised the summit with the Algerian government, said that the current turn of events in the global world should inspire Africans to work more collectively for their development and self-reliance.
“Against the backdrop of current geostrategic upheavals, the need for exchanging with our closer friends is overwhelming. Each one of our nations chooses its path depending on its experiences but we are convinced that no state in Africa can alone address the looming future challenges on its own,” he said at the launch of the forum on Saturday.
Describing the current political changes in Europe and America where nationalist sentiments are growing, with the United Kingdom having voted to leave the European Union, Haddad called for more solidarity in Africa to end food insecurity and heavy reliance on imported manufactured goods.
“We are bound to unify ourselves for the good of our continent and people,” he said, urging African leaders to embrace Pan-Africanism ideals of solidarity and warning them that mobilisation of foreign development aid is likely to be more and more difficult in the future.
With the share of formal intra-continental trade in Africa measured at around 10 per cent of the continent’s global trade today, delegates at the meeting pushed for a better rate and urged African governments to create a better environment to ease internal trade across the continent, starting with a functional transport infrastructure.
“It took me about 20 hours to come to Algeria. We need to be better connected in order to work together,” said Amina Mohamed Jibril, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
At 10 per cent, the rate of trade between African countries is considered very low if compared with over 80 per cent for inter-European trade and 60 per cent in Asia.
While experts speaking at the ‘Algiers Rendezvous’ over the weekend urged African governments to create a good environment for intra-Africa trade, they also called upon African entrepreneurs to be more creative and move into industrialisation and big cash investments.
“Yogurt is imported at 83 per cent in Africa. What is complicated in making yogurt?” wondered former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Carlos Lopes, essentially challenging his fellow Africans to explore the economic benefits of manufacturing.
He also accused African financial institutions of being “lazy”, saying that they aren’t doing enough to support small businesses while they sit on an $80-billion capital that remains non-invested and sits idle in the banks’ coffers as they fear to invest it on the continent.
“It’s a paradox that people outside Africa see it as an investment opportunity but Africa-based operators keep talking about perceived risks for investments,” he said.
The meeting, which kicked off on Saturday and ends today (Monday), was organised by the Government of Algeria and the country’s business leaders with partners that include the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA).