By Taonga Sabola, In Malabo, Equatorial Guinea:
Africa Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, has said the continent could develop with dignity if it could get regional integration right.
Addressing reporters in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, ahead of the 54th annual meetings for the bank which start today, Adesina said regional integration gained momentum with the agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in March 2018 and was at the threshold of its launch next month.
“If we get our integration right, Africa will be more competitive, will be able to create a massive amount of jobs and, more importantly, Africa can develop in dignity and confidence,” Adesina said.
The meetings are being held under the theme ‘Regional Integration for Africa’s Economic Prosperity’ and have attracted representatives of all African countries, including Malawi.
Adesina said the AfCFTA would constitute the world’s largest free trade area, consolidating an integrated market of 1.3 billion consumers with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about $3.4 trillion.
It is estimated that Africa’s GDP growth could reach 6 percent a year in a continent without borders.
Adesina said AfDB had invested around $1 billion through various initiatives, including cross border infrastructure, to move trade across African borders.
He said most of the investment had gone to small and medium enterprises which are widely considered as the engine of economic growth.
The AfDB Chief said Equatorial Guinea was selected as host of the annual meetings because of its economic potential and because Central Africa could benefit a great deal from regional integration.
Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Cesar Mba Abogo, who cohosted the press interface, highlighted his country’s significant efforts on the economic and infrastructure front, to connect markets in Central Africa.
“It is a real privilege to host the bank’s annual meetings… the bank’s High 5s are very much in line with our development strategy between now and 2025,” Abogo said, revealing that the country’s road networks, both in Malabo and throughout the mainland, were better than across large parts of Africa.
He added that Equatorial Guinea had invested in social housing and would continue to improve human capital, through capacity building and training programmes, while recognising the challenges presented by skill shortages.
The annual meetings will provide an opportunity for experts, governments, businesses, civil society, think tanks and academia to share candid assessments on regional integration efforts and dialogue on critical issues concerning Africa’s development.