Business gurus and governments on the continent of Africa have promised to pursue the production of manufactured goods, including value-addition to raw materials and also boost the intra-African trade.
They made the promise at the just ended 2024 Africa Prosperity Dialogues (APD), which was organised by the Africa Prosperity Network (APN), the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), under the auspices of the government of Ghana, at Aburi, in the Eastern Region.
It was on the theme: “Delivering Prosperity in Africa: Produce, Add Value, Trade.”
Overall, there were eight (8) high-level sessions. Panel members who participated in the sessions brought multiple perspectives to bear on various topics.
Among the topics that were considered and discussed were; Doing Business Differently – Adding Value to What We Produce, Unleashing Africa’s Food and Agribusiness Potential, Getting on the Global Value Chain of Africa’s Natural Resources and Accelerating Intra-African Trade through Enhanced Transportation and Logistics.
The rest are; Critical Enablers for Single Market Success – Leveraging Infrastructure, Innovation, and Technology, Critical Enablers for Single Market Success – Strategic Financing and Investment in Infrastructure, Scaling Up Mobile Interoperability to Deepen Financial Inclusion and Intra-African Trade, and Critical Enablers for Single Market Success through Manufacturing – Smart Market Access Strategies and Enabling Incentives.
Ahead of each of the high-level panel discussions, leading business personalities and industry players set the context by bringing issues into perspective and setting the stage for the deliberations.
Among the context setters were; Briggette Harrington, President & CEO, Igire Coffee, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko – AU Commissioner, Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment, and Abu Jinapor, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Ghana.
The remaining context setters were; Ousmaila Joof – Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Solomon Quaynor – Vice President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialisation, African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Sidi Ould Tah – President, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), Dr. Ernest Addison – Governor, Bank of Ghana and Serge Ekué – President, West African Development Bank (BOAD).
Top business leaders who participated in the dialogues after their extensive deliberations committed to five major endeavours.
First, was to collaborate with central banks, financial institutions and key stakeholders to bolster investments in technology, ensuring the interoperability and standardisation of payment systems across the continent, while actively pursuing enhanced efficiency and consistency in the payment ecosystem.
Second, enhance the production of diversified and value-added manufacturing goods to elevate African nations along the value chain, and third, increase investments in digitalisation and technology to bolster integration within regional and global value chains.
The fourth commitment was to embrace technologies that enhance agribusinesses through the adoption of modern agricultural practices, including precision farming, drone technology, and Internet of Things (IoT) – based solutions, aiming to significantly improve productivity, efficiency and sustainability within the agricultural sector.
Lastly, business leaders and captains of industry pledged to prioritise investments in critical minerals essential for various emerging technologies while ensuring environmentally sustainable mining practices.
Heads of governments
The Heads of State and representatives of various governments across the African continent who participated in the dialogues included Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana and Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia.
The rest are; Adriano Maleiane – Prime Minister of Mozambique, Tiémoko Meyliet Koné – Vice President of Côte d’Ivoire, Mr Ibrahim Boughali – Speaker of the People’s National Assembly of Algeria, Mohammed M. Abou El Enein – Deputy Speaker of Egypt’s House of Representatives and Chairman & Founder – Cleopatra Group, Egypt.
After their summit with business leaders on the third day of the dialogues, the Heads of State and government representatives committed to thirteen (13) strategic policies.
The first was to “leverage public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements to increase investments in infrastructure development, with a specific focus on transportation, logistics and digital infrastructure, while fostering deeper intra-African trade and enhancing connectivity for African countries to global markets.
Secondly, “incentivise financial institutions to increase their support for businesses in the manufacturing sectors to charge favourable interest rates. These institutions can provide loans to manufacturers for capital investment, expanding production facilities, or acquiring machinery and equipment.”
Third, “oil-rich African nations would actively foster the development of integrated refineries by leveraging innovative financing mechanisms and private sector participation. The adoption of such integrated operations aims not only to diminish reliance on imported petrochemicals but also to relieve pressure on the country’s constrained foreign exchange reserves, ultimately contributing to improved macroeconomic stability.”
Fourth, “enhance trade facilitation by simplifying customs procedures, reducing trade barriers, and standardising regulations and simultaneously, strengthen Africa’s integration into regional and Global Value Chains.”
Fifth, “establish an enabling environment for industrialisation by promoting diversified and value-added manufacturing, fostering innovation, skill development and investments in sectors beyond primary commodities, both within and beyond the Global Value Chains”.
Sixth, “deepen regional integration efforts and leverage the AfCFTA agreement to integrate into regional and global value chains and utilise regional economic communities to enhance intra-African trade, creating larger markets and economies of scale.”
Seventh, “formulate and implement policies that bolster African companies, including start-ups, enabling their integration at higher levels within regional and global value chains. The overarching goal is to achieve substantial economic growth, prosperity, poverty reduction and sustainability in the social sector.”
Eight, “increase investments in agriculture to significantly support smallholder farmers, providing them access to modern farming techniques, high-quality seeds, fertilisers, irrigation systems, and essential agricultural infrastructure. This will enhance food production and increase productivity.”
Ninth, “promote climate-smart agricultural methods, encompassing conservation farming, agro-forestry and the cultivation of drought-resistant crop varieties and provide support to farmers in adapting to shifting climate patterns and mitigating crop losses caused by extreme weather events.”
Tenth, “emphasise the value addition of natural resources through a strategy of refining, manufacturing, and producing finished or semi-finished goods to attract higher prices in global markets.”
Eleventh, “ensure that mining practices are environmentally sustainable, with costs aligned with global standards, and implement stringent enforcement measures.”
Twelve, “utilise innovative financing mechanisms to mobilise the necessary funding for addressing the infrastructure gaps on the continent, including advancing road transportation and services, energy, railway, air, and maritime transportation systems.”
Thirteen, “nurture the development and uptake of innovative financial technologies (FinTech), including mobile payments, digital wallets, and online payment platforms. Also, to enhance telecommunication networks, expand internet accessibility, and establish resilient financial infrastructure to support electronic transactions efficiently.”
Interoperability, which is referred to as the basic ability of different computerised products or systems to readily connect and exchange information, was one actionable item that resonated throughout the dialogues among business leaders, heads of state, and industry players.
Selorm Adadevoh – Group Chief Commercial Officer of MTN, Patricia Obo-Nai – Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone Ghana, Dr Ernest Addison – Governor of the Bank of Ghana and President Akufo-Addo, in their various submissions at the dialogues, supported the concept and called on decision-makers on the African continent to give interoperability and the architecture needed to implement it all the attention it deserves.
The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat on their part promised to “provide support to member States of the African Union that have not ratified the agreement, encouraging them to do so and to pursue “progress from the Guided Trade Initiative and implement comprehensive trading among all state parties under the AfCFTA agreement.”
Multilateral Development Banks, Regional Development Finance Institutions, commercial banks, investors and other financiers noted that they are committed to continuing “to collaborate with governments and the private sector to make available attractive and affordable trade finance, supporting private sector engagement with the AfCFTA market.”
Development partners, such as UNECA, UNDP, Africa Development Bank, Afriexim Bank, and others, during the dialogues, note that they will continue to provide coordinated support to governments, businesses, and the AfCFTA Secretariat, to expedite the full implementation of the AfCFTA.