African Development Bank chief highlights trade barriers

25 Aug 15

Trade barriers, conflict and a lack of transparency are inhibiting growth in Africa, an expert symposium heard.


During a discussion on The Developmental State in a Globalised World, hosted by the Meles Zenawi Foundation in Kigali, Rwanda last week, African Development Bank president Donald Kaberuka highlighted the obstacles to trade and movement between African nations.

Intra-African trade stands at about 10%, compared to 60% in Europe, 40% in North America and 30% in South East Asia, according to African Union figures.

“Tariffs are an issue; free movement of people and goods is an issue, yet these are the low-hanging fruits,” Kaberuka said.

The point was echoed by Jendayi Frazer, former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, who said regional integration should be a critical ingredient for African success.

“The continent is not experiencing the scale and speed of integration that is necessary for global competition, and African countries are going to have a hard time to compete globally without regional integration,” she warned.

Frazer also said ongoing conflicts in the continent present an impediment to inclusive growth. She highlighted conflicts in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Burundi, which were affecting neighbouring economies.

“Countries that are doing well, but are bordered by countries at war, have to spend their time and resources trying to bring about peace, while these resources could have been used to deliver development,” said Frazer, singling out Kenya, which has been affected by conflicts in neighbouring South Sudan and Somalia.

Kaberuka added that many conflict-afflicted nations were rich in natural resources, such as oil, but some of the most unequal in Africa.

“In South Sudan it is not about ethnic conflict,” said the AfDB president.

“It is fundamentally about who controls the rent. Rent-seekers are fighting without caring about the citizens.”

Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa, acting chief economist and vice president at the AfDB, observed that lack of transparency was an issue in these countries. He said there was a need for policies to address inequality, promote social inclusion and enhance democracy and accountability of governments.

The speakers were addressing the inaugural symposium organised by the Meles Zenawi Foundation, which took place on 21 August. The foundation has been set up to commemorate and continue the peace and development work of former Ethiopian premier Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012.


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