This week, ITC Executive Director, Ms. Patricia Francis, took part in the World Economic Forum on Africa 2012 held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
On Wednesday, Ms. Francis was a panellist in the Workshop on Ethiopia's Competitiveness. The workshop aimed to bring together leaders from the business sector, policymakers and development experts to debate how best to improve Ethiopia's competitiveness. The Executive Director was also a contributor during Thursday's informal gathering of world economic leaders which focused on how African states can boost regional trade.
This morning, Ms. Francis was one of the discussion leaders for a workshop entitled "Open for business: Unlocking Africa's Growth Potential". The backdrop for the workshop is the fact that improved macroeconomic stability, high economic growth and a population set to double in size by 2040 combine to make the continent an attractive investment destination. The workshop aimed to determine how global and regional investors can untangle the challenges posed by such a diverse and sometimes complex continent, as well as overcome the barriers to foreign and domestic investment.
During the workshop, Ms. Francis identified key issues related to building partnerships between government, civil society and the private sector. Firstly, the Executive Director expressed a view that partnerships should be based on trust and confidence, around a common vision built by consensus and one that reduces risk to those involved.
Another key factor is that rules and regulations should be clear and that there should be access to information in order to bring transparency and predictability to those rules and regulations. Furthermore, as well as political stability, there has to be a change in political mentality towards facilitation rather than regulation. Additionally, states have to have an independent judicial system that builds confidence and a banking sector that supports SMEs and regional trade.
Ms. Francis expressed a view that since the agenda is so large, countries should prioritise rather than try to tackle all of the issues at once. The Executive Director then noted that it is important to optimize infrastructure investment in order to maximize returns. She suggested that success seen in China and India with the promotion of Economic Zones in areas where the necessary infrastructure can be put in place could be a model to replicate.
Turning to regional integration, the Executive Director noted that building the institutional capacity of Africa's Regional Economic Communities (RECs) is important and that regional integration itself is critical for smaller states and landlocked states in order to enable them to better reach the bigger export markets. Ms. Francis noted that exporting countries have to successfully build a good image in order to attract investment, but that this image has to be based on reality not just branding. Finally, she noted that aid and investment should support and not distort developmental objectives.
More details about the event can be found on the WEF web site.