President of the African Development Bank has said if Africa gets integration right the continent can develop with dignity and confidence.
Akinwumi Adesina was speaking at a press conference at the Bank’s 2019 Annual Meetings, which opened Tuesday in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
The theme of this year’s meetings is ‘Regional Integration for Africa’s Economic Prosperity.” Regional integration gained momentum with the agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in March 2018 and is now at the threshold of its launch next month.
The AfCFTA will constitute the world’s largest free trade area, consolidating an integrated market of 1.3 billion consumers with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about US$3.4 trillion. It is estimated that Africa’s GDP growth could reach 6 percent a year in a continent without borders (UNECA).
Mr Adesina said that the Bank has invested around US$1 billion through various initiatives, including cross border infrastructure, to move trade across African borders. Most has gone to small and medium enterprises – the engine of economic growth.
Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Cesar A. Mba Abogo, who co-hosted the press conference, spoke about the country’s significant efforts on the economic and infrastructure front, to connect markets in Central Africa.
“It is a real privilege to host the Bank’s Annual Meetings… the Bank’s High 5s – are very much in line with our development strategy between now and 2025,” Abogo said, revealing that the country’s road networks both in Malabo and throughout the mainland, were better than across large parts of Africa.
In addition, Equatorial Guinea has invested in social housing and will continue to improve human capital, through capacity building and training programmes, while recognising the challenges presented by skill shortages.
Equatorial Guinea had been selected as host of the Annual Meetings because of its economic potential and because Central Africa could benefit a great deal from regional integration, said Adesina.
“We believe that the potential is immense, but the level of integration is not enough,” he said.
Regional integration is one of the Bank’s High 5s and is seen as pivotal to boosting Africa’s economic development.