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Last Updated:[28-10-2010 06:36:10 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

High Time Africa Reckoned Its Business Potential



tradenews A simple anecdotal incident from an editor of an African media house has pinpointed the loss of African business opportunities within the continent. Kadaria Ahmed editor at Timbuktu Media wrote that poor transport infrastructure of Africa was masking the trade possibilities within in the region.

In Ahmed’s review, she stated anecdotal evidence from friends had always suggested that travelling within the West Africa region was a nightmare, but not having experienced it, she always thought the stories were somewhat exaggerated. However, she lock stock and barrel now believes her friends’ version after going through a harrowing experience by herself.

A flight from Lagos, Nigeria to Bamako, Mali’s capital which should have taken less than 2 hours had taken three plane rides and thirteen hours, she said. The absence of a functioning infrastructure within the sub region was more than an irritation as it paid a heavy economic price with inability to maximise trade among the various countries in the sub region, she added.

In a nutshell, her report says instead of being hell-bent on beyond the continent trade, with proper infrastructure in place, the African nations should encourage improving trade ties with neighbouring states which were not thousands of miles away. Statistics indicate that just 10 percent of total trade by Economic Community of West Africa countries (ECOWAS) is to other West African nations.

It is understandable from Ahmed’s observation that after years of experimentations of the African continent by foreign vested interests with various aids, the region still remains backward since most African nations often succumbed to the carrots and politics of foreign powers. It neither took any cues from Asia nor South America which stood up to such challenges to register growth in the recent past.

On another account the article says ‘‘it costs as much to move a container from Mombasa to Kampala as it does from Mombasa to Shanghai.’’ Moreover, the two-way trade between Africa and the EU in 2008 is EUR 278bn while ‘‘Ghana sends less than 3 percent of its exports to neighbouring Benin (compared with 49 percent to the EU).

The UN at the three-day African Economic Conference on “Agenda for Africa’s Economic Recovery and Long-Term Growth” is more so reflective of Ahmed’s observation. It stated the African countries must mobilise domestic revenue and diversify their economies to supplement resources that flow into the continent from foreign aid, loans and investment to sustain growth during the global financial crisis (in a likely second dip).

The head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa Abdoulie Janneh said Africa had the capacity to increase domestic resource mobilization, citing the continent’s combined consumer spending of about $860bn in 2008. The UN’s volte-face on Africa to grow on the back of its own strength with good intent or not is good for the continent. Particularly when the race for a piece of Africa has been surging from Asia and as far as South America to give a stiff competition to the European and American aggrandisement in the region.

The African countries to come out of the anecdotal narrative, it has to learn from many Asian countries, which instead of basking under the grants and foreign aids have strategized itself to grow in unfavourable conditions with their own inequities.

By Jose Roy




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