Africa’s potential hampered by red tape, poor infrastructure: officials

  Xinhua. 01 May 2013

 Although the growth of many African countries outperformed the world’s average in 2012, the continent still suffers from home-made obstacles, said officials of multinational state unions here at the two-day Africa Global Business Forum, which began Wednesday.

Valentine Rugwabiza, deputy director general of the Geneva- based World Trade Organization (WTO), who is from Rwanda, said while African WTO member states were outperforming global economic growth in the last three years, “doing business in our continent is still very costly.”

She listed excess bureaucracy in most African states, underdeveloped roads and means of transportation, as well as the lack of women empowerment, as the key barriers which Africa has to overcome.

Amelia Kyambadde, minister of trade and industry from Uganda, agreed in principle with Rugwabiza, and urged the attendees, officials, dignitaries, businessmen and women to regard Africa’s deficits as opportunities, adding that “Most African countries are open for business.”

Earlier in April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its global outlook for 2013 that African economies would see their GDP to rise by 5.6 percent, higher than the 3.3 percent the IMF forecasted for the world as a whole.

Africa has 12 percent of the world’s oil and gas reserves and 40 percent of the global gold reserves, Kyambadde said.

Asked by Xinhua if she regards purchases of agricultural land as “land grabbing” as some analysts criticized, Swaziland’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Jabulie Mashwama, said she does not see it this way “if investors into agricultural land abide by the local laws and regulations.”

The IMF said Swaziland and Equatorial Guinea would be the only African economies to shrink this year.

Earlier in the day, Dubai-based investment bank Alpen Capita said in a report on the Gulf Arab food industry that the lack of fertile land on the Arab peninsula and the supply of agricultural land in Africa could be a win-win situation for both sides.

Governments could further increase focus on contract farming initiatives, whereby it can buy agricultural lands in Africa that have favorable agricultural resources, but lack economic backing, according to the report.

The oil-rich Gulf states have to import over 90 percent of their food needs from abroad. This led Hamad Buamim, director- general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and one of the forum’s organizers, to say that “No other continent will grow more strongly over the coming years than Africa.”

Dubai will continue to play the role as a gateway to trade and investment flows into and out of the African continent, especially as a bridge to the China and the Far East, said Buamim.


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