African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina on Wednesday said the continent remains weak as long as it remains apart and divided.
This is as African leaders underscored the urgent need to fast-track the continent’s regional integration to accelerate economic transformation in the continent.
They spoke at the opening ceremony of the Bank’s 2019 Annual Meetings, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, under the theme, “Regional Integration for Africa’s Economic Prosperity.”
Apart and divided, Africa is weakened. Together and united, Africa will be unstoppable,” Adesina told delegates at the Sipopo Conference Centre.
He urged African governments to work toward the elimination of non-tariff barriers.
“Pulling down non-tariff barriers alone, will spur trade by at least 53 per cent, and potentially double trade,” he said.
This comes days after the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement entered into force on May 30. The deal intends to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.
“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,” Adesina said.
Interestingly, however, Nigeria, where Adesina comes from, is yet to ratify AfCTA as it is yet to resolve domestic issues with members of the private sector that opposed the signing of the deal.
It went on to pull out from the bid to host AfCTA Secretariat.
Adesina previously served as the country’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The opening ceremony was presided over by the host nation’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In attendance were King Letsie III of Lesotho, President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi of the DRC; and Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, Prime Minister of eSwatini.
High-level government officials from Rwanda, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Côte d’Ivoire were also present. In his opening speech, President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo recalled that Equatorial Guinea, once one of the poorest countries in the world, has since been radically transformed with one of the highest per capita incomes on the continent.
“For me, development is not about per capita income, it is about expanding the opportunities for the people to live a more dignified life,” President Mbasogo said.
“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,” he said.
Regional integration is one of the Bank’s strategic High Five agendas to rapidly advance Africa’s economic transformation.