CYNTHIA MWALE, Washington, USA
AS AFRICA takes an economic trajectory, the focus should be to maximise its position as a continent of opportunities rather than an aid-dependent one in addressing the many challenges which hinder socio-economic
Yes, it is time for Africa to completely over-haul by taking advantage of its place of not just being politically independent but also socio-economically, as espoused by the African Union’s (AU) agenda 2063.
Embedded on the AU’s objectives that aim to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonisation, to promote unity and solidarity among African States, coordinate and intensify cooperation for development and to promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations, Africa is potentially able to achieve this.
It is a continent of plenty, as it is endowed with natural resources such as minerals and oil deposits, water, vast land and human resources. But, alas, with all these blessings, Africa does not seem to realise its potential?
“Don’t think far: think Africa!…Africa needs more private sector investments across the entire infrastructure space: from electricity, to support new staple crop processing zones to transform agriculture, communications and ITC roads, ports, rails and aviation infrastructure,
“Together, let us do more for Africa! The African economies are doing better than the global average [and] the message is clear: African economies are resilient… because of macroeconomic stability, good governance, rising domestic demand, and increased regional trade. African economies are also reforming very fast.” These were some points I picked from African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina.
Dr Adesina gave these tips when he spoke at the high-profile gathering dubbed United States-Africa Business Summit, a platform aimed at highlighting business engagement and raising the profile of business opportunities in Africa for the Americans.
He was speaking from the AfDB’s mission, which aims to fight poverty and improve living conditions on the continent through promoting the investment of public and private capital in projects and programmes that are likely to contribute to the economic and social development of the region.
But, what is the continent not doing right to harness the much talked-about opportunities? Has it become an old unsung song? Is it now that Africa has realised that it has the potential to become socio-economically independent?
To partially answer these questions, the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) wants to provide a ‘perfect’ opportunity to be a strong voice and effectively advocate both in the US and Africa – to help to shape the discussions and facilitate a stronger tie on trade, investment and business relationship that is mutually beneficial to both continents’ companies and citizens.
While no continent is an island, the theme, “The US Stake in Africa: a Call for Greater Economic Engagement”, was appropriate as it was hatched from that.
CCA president and chief executive officer Florizelle Liser believes there are clear commercial benefits and opportunities for companies doing business in Africa – benefits that go beyond and are integral to the security, peace and counter-terrorism issues.
“Our trade relationship is vital to the security and stability of both the US and Africa. But our relationship with Africa has to continue its transition from being “aid-based” to “trade-based”, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross noted.
Mr Ross underscores President Trump’s sentiments at the G7 meetings with African leaders in Italy that, indeed, “Africa is a place of opportunity”.
“We cannot ignore such a large, dynamic and vital part of the world. We have received great feedback from American companies and members of our Advisory Council on Africa regarding the economic landscape of the continent,” he told over 800 delegates that were drawn from various spheres who included Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi.
President Nyusi commended the critical role the CCA has played in promoting investment opportunities in Africa.
“When others looked at Africa as a marginalised continent, host to various problems, ranging from armed conflicts, natural disasters, chronic poverty and political instability, this organisation looks at Africa as a continent of hope.
“It visualises an African continent of great potentials and immense opportunities that are likely to transform it and mainstream it into the global economy,” the Mozambican President said.
Clearly, the diversity of the companies that comprised the platform offered a number of options for business and economic cooperation that promotes integrated and sustained development, particularly for the emerging African economies such as Zambia.
For Zambia, the summit gave insight to opportunities for the private firms to create synergies with US businesses.
Counsellor for Economic Affairs at the Zambian Embassy in Washington James Chisenga, who led the mission at the summit, indicated that Zambian business companies missed a chance to take part in the engagement with potential investors in various sectors.
“It is unfortunate that we did not have local representation…My appeal is that Zambian private sector should take advantage of such platforms to create partnerships with foreign companies,” Mr Chisenga said.
On the regional front, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) assistant secretary general for programmes Kipyego Cheluget is optimistic that foreign investors will find a plethora of partners in COMESA countries and beyond.
“There’s business to be done; deals to be struck…The new emergent Africa is no longer propelled by inflated oil and commodity prices. There’s a real consumer behind Africa’s growth; with an ever-growing middle class, and a young population that gives Africa her demographic dividend.
“Combined with a largely free-market system across the COMESA region and beyond, we must ask the quintessential question: When are you coming to do business?” Dr Cheluget said.
Concisely, the US and Africa both have young populations. The future of business, trade, labour and investment rests within synergies. It is really up to the private sector on both sides of the Atlantic to find that optimal point of cooperation.
Furthermore, such synergies could contribute to Government’s vision of industrialisation, which promotes value addition, job and wealth creation, and, ultimately, poverty reduction.