Better trade pays: Mbeki

Speaking at the closing session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa last week, South African President Thabo Mbeki urged African countries to make use of available platforms such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in order to improve the continent’s investment climate. The theme of this year’s summit, Going for growth, looked at how far Africa had come, and how much more still needs to be done, to better the lives of all who live on the continent, through higher economic growth, and job creation. “We need to ensure that the APRM works better and faster, so that it can lead to good governance,” Mbeki said. So far, about 26 countries on the continent have volunteered to take part in peer review. Countries who are part of the review mechanism will also be the first to be considered for assistance by the newly launched African Investment Climate Facility. The facility, launched at the WEF last week, aims to, among other things, improve infrastructure and boost other attempts by African countries to ensure their economies are run better. “Leadership on the continent must be more preoccupied with the eradication of poverty and the creation of more jobs,” Mbeki said. He said the challenge of reducing unemployment on the continent was not one that could be dealt with overnight, and leaders needed to ensure that economic growth was not just “a statistical thing, but that it leads to more jobs”. Leaders agreed that partnerships between government and the private sector were crucial in order to facilitate the creation of more jobs. Reducing the cost of doing business will help stimulate the economy, and encourage the private sector to increase investment into the economy. “Jobs are being delivered, but they are not enough. We also need to look at ways of transforming the agricultural sector to make it more productive, as many of our people live in the rural areas,” said Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. Kikwete called on private business to engage with governments in finding better and more sustainable solutions. “We look at partnerships as the key to generate further growth,” Kikwete said. The African continent on average is growing at higher that 5 percent, its highest growth rate in 30 years, and the sense is that the continent can do even better, and needs to do better, so that underdevelopment and poverty can be properly addressed. Co-chair of the summit and Chief Executive of transport utility Transnet, Maria Ramos, said mindsets still needed to change among all role players in order to achieve sustained growth. She called on the private sector to show “courage” when taking advantage of opportunities in Africa and to foster an understanding that “for everyone to benefit (from economic growth) you need to work together.” The Transnet chief exceutive said positive economic and political changes were taking place in Africa, and that it was imperative for all to “make sure that the things we commit to, we actually do”. “Without economic growth, we cannot hope to sustainably eradicate poverty on the continent,” Ramos said. ‘ Wnafrica.

June 2006
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