AfDB Must Engage with New Partners on Solid Ground, says AfDB Chief Economist

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The new partnerships in which Africa is currently engaged are expected to enable the continent boost its infrastructure development efforts, strengthen governance, remove obstacles to regional integration, stimulate private sector development and improve the quality of higher education, the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group chief economist, Mthuli Ncube, said during a plenary session that came on the heels of the fifth African Economic Conference's opening session which took place on Wednesday, October 27, 2010, in Tunis .

Mr. Ncube said that those were the bases upon which the continent should nurture its relations with new partners such as China, Brazil, and India.

He underscored that one of the reasons for the continent's resilence to the global financial and economic crisis was related to these two pillars, especially governance and education. Over the last twenty years, the quality of economic leaders who have presided over the continent's destiny has improved and these leaders have been acting in line with globally recognized rules of efficiency.  

He pointed out that what was left was building the capacity of local authorities to manage development projects and eliminating the numerous obstacles to intra-African trade, especially by strengthening supranational structures.

Removing Obstacles to Regional Integration

The Kenya central bank governor, Njuguna Ndungu, for his part, pointed out that the continent must consolidate and sustain achievements made by further removing obstacles to regional trade. Old challenges such as underdeveloped and unstable markets, as well as poorly defined regulatory environments have ceded to greater macroeconomic stability and greater public investments in the infrastructure sector.

However, there are more testing challenges which are national and regional, and these are working against strengthening efforts at wealth creation which is conducive for the expansion of investments and trade. Regional projects aimed at filling infrastructure gaps will significantly help in checking these constraints on the continent's efforts to make strides.

An Areva representative, Zephirin Diabre, expressed the wish to see the private sector play a different role in supporting the continent's development efforts. In addition to actions undertaken within the framework in their social responsability  and public-private partnrships, businesses should provide for budget support given their vast resources vis-a-vis poor states. He underscored contributions by multinationals in efforts at providing public services and reducing porverty in countries in which they operate.

The Nordic Institute researcher, Fantu Cheru, examined the advantages and disadvantages to African countries in their efforts at working closely with newly emerging countries. He called for greater regional integration in the management of relations with these new powerful nations, reminding Africans of the importance of founding this strategic relationships on mutual interest and realism. 

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