Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has called for smart investments into the continent’s critical infrastructure – a move he said could accelerate success for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“As a continent, we need to produce and trade our way out of poverty and underdevelopment, and we cannot do that without investing in smart infrastructure across the continent,” he said at the maiden Africa Prosperity Dialogues dubbed the Kwahu Summit. It was on the theme‘From ambition to action; delivering prosperity through continental trade’.
While the last decades have seen some positive investments, the Vice-President argued that there is a need for additional resources to finance the ‘arteries for trade’ – physical infrastructure such as roads, rail, energy and digital infrastructure including data centres to facilitate the digital transformation and financial integration of markets.
These investments, he reiterated, will be critical to success for the AfCFTA: “It will take concrete, strategic actions by governments and businesses on the continent; the right mix of policies, a greater sense of purpose for more robust intra-African trade must happen to support economic diversification and the continent’s much-needed industrialisation”.
Equally important, he said, is the unleashing of what he termed ‘productive capacities’ – which can be achieved by creating platforms for knowledge-brokerage and access to information about critical products and services on the continent.
This, Dr. Bawumia added, will allow some 445 million small businesses across the continent to plug into the value chains of these mega-industries. “We need to develop Africa into a manufacturing zone that will facilitate the trade of value-added products. These, in my view, will be critical to leapfrog Africa’s industrialisation and bring the enormous socio-economic benefits,” he said.
Again, the Vice-President emphasised the need to mobilise finance and investments across the continent, saying Africa needs between US$130billion and US$170billion annually to bridge its infrastructure gap and generate sustainable growth at 5 percent per annum or more.
This, he explains, can only be realised through private sector participation.
The founder and Chairman of Africa Prosperity Network, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko – organiser of the Africa Prosperity Dialogues, said AfCFTA has the all-important goal of turning Africa into the world’s largest single market.
“This, we believe, is the biggest promise this century for the prosperity of Africa and the African. It is potentially, the world’s most exciting economic project this century. And this is what brings us here now,” he said.
He added that: “For our collective ownership and shared benefit, it must be owned by businesses in Africa. The combined voices of Africa’s businesses – big and small – must be heard and felt. The aggregate value of enterprises and industries across Africa must be networked, coordinated and impactfully leveraged”.
On his part, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene, said transforming the continent should be the foremost thing in the minds of governments and businesses in Africa, as predicted by the World Bank.
He said all the necessary legal instruments required by traders and businesses on the continent in order to take advantage of the AfCFTA have been established. “I see no reason why our continent cannot be the global economic force that it should have been 60 or 70 years ago.”
The maiden Africa Prosperity Dialogues come against a backdrop of immense economic challenges confronting the continent.