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The issue of enhancing trade is key to helping African countries become emerging economies, African Development Bank’s Acting Chief Economist and Vice-President said during the recent International Conference on the Emergence of Africa.
“Creating favourable terms for trade and enhancing trade relations with other countries should be a critical agenda for an emerging Africa,” Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa said Wednesday, March 18, on the opening day of the three-day meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Co-organized by the United Nations Development Programme and the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, in partnership with the AfDB and the World Bank, the conference highlighted the need to negotiate favourable trade concessions to allow for new opportunities for African countries to experience economic growth.
The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Abidjan Declaration, which emphasises the impact of Africa’s trade on the global market. “Countries aspiring to become emerging markets should accelerate regional integration through the creation of regional blocks that could eventually lead to the improvement of intra-regional trade and efficient access to global markets,” the declaration stated.
Delegates agreed on the need for trade and economic growth with participation of vulnerable groups. “The inclusion of the most vulnerable populations into the financial system, and especially women and their access to credit should be promoted so as to increase their share of participation in the economy,” the declaration read.
African Development Bank statistics show an increase in Africa’s economic growth to 5.5% in 2014. The target for 2015 is 7%. However, the majority of Africa’s population does not feel the impact of this growth.
The continent’s energy problem also came into focus during the meeting.
Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice-President for Africa, challenged governments to prioritise measures to address the energy crisis, as it is a key element in attracting investment, which is necessary for economic growth. “All emerging countries have to solve the energy crisis. We have to be on par with other nations, ensuring we produce enough energy for Africa at affordable rates,” he said.
High energy prices have raised the cost of doing business in Africa, with investors opting to invest in other lands, he said.
For his part, Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, called for concerted efforts to address terrorism, which he noted was a serious threat to the economic development of African countries. His words echoed those of AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, who has repeatedly urged nations of the world to join hands in the battle against jihadists and their offshoots everywhere, noting that they pose a risk for Africa’s development prospects.
The conference was a platform for governments, the private sector and partners to exchange ideas on how to improve policies and strategies that will help African nations become emerging markets. Participants included Heads of African States, BRICS (a group of emerging economies including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), diplomats, private sector, and civil society, amongst others.
A committee comprising representatives from the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, the AfDB, the United Nations, World Bank, private sector and civil society has been tasked with the implementation of the Abidjan Declaration.