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African leaders call for urgent regional integration to accelerate economic transformation

Ndumiso Mlilo

MALABO – Africa’s political and business leaders this week called for urgent regional integration in the continent, to accelerate Africa’s economic transformation.

Speaking in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea Wednesday, ahead of the opening ceremony of the African Development Bank’s 2019 Annual Meetings, the bank’s Dr Akinwumi Adesina said acceleration of regional integration would achieve economic growth. He said African countries should remove non-tariff barriers.

“Apart and divided, Africa is weakened. Together and united, Africa will be unstoppable. Pulling down non-tariff barriers alone, will spur trade by at least 53%, and potentially double trade,” said Dr Adesina.

The meeting is being held under the theme: “Regional Integration for Africa’s Economic Prosperity”.

Equatorial Guinea’s President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said his country – one of the poorest in the world, had risen to become one of the highest per capita incomes on the continent, thanks to radical transformation.

“For me, development is not about per capita income, it is about expanding the opportunities for the people to live a more dignified life,” said President Mbasogo.

“Equatorial Guinea is open for business. We are committed to regional integration for shared prosperity. We count on the African Development Bank to help us achieve economic diversification and the consolidation of social equality.”

Regional integration is one of the bank’s strategic high 5 agendas meant to rapidly advance Africa’s economic transformation.

The African Development Bank has invested more than US$13 billion in the central African region. Akinwumi observed that for every dollar invested, the region has leveraged US$36, an incredible rate of return of 36 times.

Guinea’s Finance Minister, Cesar Mba Abogo, said regional integration was the way to go if the continent was to achieve economic growth.

He said: “Progress is the realisation of utopia. This is a country of utopia in Africa, with independence and the ability to control our own destiny. It seemed impossible at first in the last century but it was done. Now our utopia is regional integration.”

Late last month, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area became operational when 22 of the 52 countries ratified it. It aims to create a free trade area representing a market of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of about US$3.3 trillion.

“There’s excitement in the air on Africa’s economic opportunities, and those opportunities are boundless. The newly ratified Africa Continental Free Trade Area will make Africa the largest free trade zone in the world, with a combined GDP of over $3.3 trillion,” added Akinwumi.

The meeting is being attended by more than 2,000 participants to share the bank’s perspectives on the state of Africa’s economy. The bank will give the update about their work and exchange views on emerging issues shaping the future of the continent.

The bank’s opening ceremony attended by King Letsie III of Lesotho; President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, Prime Minister of eSwatini. It was also attended by senior government officials from Rwanda, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Côte d’Ivoire and diplomatic corps.

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