Africa must boost industrial capacity to benefit from free-trade zone -AfDB

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President, AfDB

African nations will need to boost output of goods and services and integrate payment systems if they are to take advantage of a new US$3.4 trillion economic initiative, according to the head of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

A continental free-trade zone was launched this month in Niger which, if successful, will usher in a new era of development for an area with a population of 1.3 billion people.

It is hoped that the 55-nation African Continental Free Trade Area – the largest bloc since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994 – will help unlock Africa’s long-stymied economic potential by boosting intra-regional trade, strengthening supply chains and spreading expertise.

Akinwumi Adesina, president of the AfDB, said he expected industrial manufacturing capacity in Africa to increase, while financial markets would integrate and food production expands.

“Africa has to have its own industrial capacity … it’s not just about moving raw materials, it’s about value added products,” Adesina told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja.

The bank chief said African countries need to mobilise more domestic resources, and encourage sovereign wealth and pension funds to invest in infrastructure.

“We brought investors to Africa and in less than 72 hours we mobilised US$38.7 billion,” he said. “That tells me that the opportunities are there, if we can get the regulatory and investment environment right.”

He said nations need to provide the right incentives to boost local output while encouraging competition.