An orientation meeting which also sought ways to encourage African economic growth took place at the AU Commission on Thursday 3 February, between AUC Deputy Chairperson Mr Erastus Mwencha and a delegation from the World Bank led by Ms Marilou Jane D. Uy, the Sector Director for Financial and Private Sector Development, Africa region.
The World Bank Team, which also comprised Dr Yousufa Crookes, the bank’s Regional Integration Office Director based in Addis Ababa and Mr Michel Noel, a lead financial specialist in the East and Southern African Region was keen to discuss three focus areas; that is competitiveness, financial sector and gender entrepreneurship.
The meeting discussed each of these areas and identified their applicability to the AU and also how the AU could assist in ensuring success in each area.
Mr Mwencha highlighted that competitiveness, especially when applied to industrialisation is the future of Africa. Africa, adding he needs more information about the way industry is migrating, as old industrialized countries give way to newly industrializing states.
The World Bank, he said, can provide an invaluable service by advising on global trends so that Africa can decide which way to go. The World Bank reports could also contribute to peer review mechanisms in terms of setting benchmarks and guidelines for policy and activities. The continent especially needs to overcome two main challenges, said the Deputy Chairperson, which is cost of doing business and a weak consumer base. In addition, he said the AU needs analytical and promotional capacity.
As a way forward, the meeting discussed the possibility of sourcing and publicising programmes on capacity building and negotiation skills to ensure that deals negotiated by Africa benefit the continent. Mr. Mwencha also advised that inter regional trade should be promoted. He stressed that projects must be done on a regional basis.
On making finance work for Africa, the AU delegation said the AU is looking at a number of initiatives to make this happen: setting up policies to increase domestic savings; exploring the possibility of setting up regional stock exchanges; setting up the African Investment Bank; rationalizing investment codes; and setting up the African Investment Climate Observatory.
The meeting also agreed to explore the issues of risk pools, growth poles and development corridors. It looked at the issue of commodities exchanges and the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange was given as an example of one that is already functioning well and from which lessons can be learnt.
Other examples could be derived from India which has a long history of commodity exchanges in its various provinces. Finally the meeting agreed to continue dialogue and organize a workshop to explore which elements to take on board and which to avoid. Source: APO