, ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Mar 22 – Deputy President William Ruto has said there is need to dismantle trade and cultural barriers that hinder the growth of African economies.
He said regional and continental integration was critical in bringing down the walls that separate African countries and significantly expand intra-Africa trade.
The Deputy President said competition for the same markets among African countries was only hurting African economies and called for urgent integration of African economies.
Ruto was speaking at the ongoing Africa CEO forum in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara opened the conference. The President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina and business magnates Aliko Dangote were also speakers in the forum.
Ruto said: “Intra-African trade is at a dismal 15pc while trade with Europe is at 60pc and Asian countries at 40pc. We need to free our economies. We can’t protect our economies and expect to make any impact on the international scene.”
Ruto noted with satisfaction that the Eastern and Southern African regions were making positive efforts in regional integration noting that efforts are being made to bring the Southern Africa Economic bloc SADC, the East African Community and the Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa (COMESA) together.
Said Ruto: “This effort will bring together 26 countries with a population of 625 million people and an economy of $1.3 trillion with a huge potential for trade and investment.” We must not have a low ambition for ourselves to be make an impact on international trade,” he added.
Ruto said Africa must leverage on the technology and opportunities available on the continent and lip frog economies of the continent to middle income and developed status.
He said Kenya was investing in infrastructure development that had regional linkage to improve the movement of goods and services in the region and the continent at large.
Ruto expressed confidence that the completion of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia (LAPSSET) Transport corridor and the ongoing Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) would provide a much needed linkage for the growth of the countries in Eastern Africa.
The Deputy President called on Africans to leverage on the technology to boost local economies as demonstrated by the meteoric rise of mobile money transfers in Kenya. He observed that 50pc of all mobile money transfers worldwide is done in Kenya every year.
Kenya, he added, will continue to invest in energy, roads and Agriculture to accelerate the growth of the economy.
Ruto said Kenya will continue to develop her human resource by investing in the training of youth so that they can acquire skills to drive the economy.
Adesina expressed confidence that African economies currently averaging a growth of 4.4pc would pick up to double digits with prudent investments.
He advised African countries to reduce external borrowing saying the debt burden had stifled the growth of many countries on the continent.
Said Adesina: “We must reduce borrowing and mobilize domestic resources to enhance economic development on the continent.”
Adesina further advised African countries to diversify their economies and add value to their products to be able to be competitive on the international markets.
Dangote said although the continent faced periods of hard times, it had opportunities for growth. “Africa should not lose focus. The future for Africa is in trading with itself. No one will come to invest in Africa if we are not doing it ourselves by investing in our continent as a show of confidence,” he said.