Africa is at the crossroads of economic development, and requires rigorous strategies to spur its rapid growth, says President John Evans Atta Mills.
“The era of political emancipation in Africa is over, and now is the time to lift the people out of the quagmire of poverty,” he said as he opened the Seventh Africa Investment Forum in Accra yesterday.
The three-day forum, on the theme, “Accelerating intra-African trade and investment,” is one of the high level investment gatherings in Africa, aimed at providing a platform for all stakeholders to dialogue for developing an effective action plan for the continent’s economic growth.
In attendance are high powered delegations from across Africa, including some African leaders, Ministers of State, policy-makers, private sector investors and renowned economists.
Calling for economic emancipation, President Mills said: “This is the time for Africa to look for policies that will enable us to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate economic growth.
“This is the time to focus on economic growth, and economic growth cannot be achieved without the requisite investment,” he said.
He told the delegates that it was not enough to ask for investment for Africa since African countries and governments had to create the congenial atmosphere for investments to flourish.
Investors, he said, wanted a transparent regulatory regime, requisite labour, reliable judicial process, reasonable cost of doing business and political stability adding, “investment will go where it is most welcome.”
He reiterated the call for more intra-African trade saying, “we have for a long time paid lip service to economic integration of Africa.”
President Mills noted that, although some gains had been made on intra-African trade at the sub-regional level, more could be achieved at the regional level through greater commitment towards developing a common African market.
He said it was unfortunate that African countries had, over the years, been looking to outsiders for investments, when there was so much investment potential within the continent, stressing “we should begin to look within.”
He expressed Ghana’s commitment towards enhancing regional trade, and noted that the country’s doors were open to investments and mutual partnerships.
President Mills lauded the high patronage of the forum and particularly thanked the Commonwealth Business Council, the organisers, for acceding to Ghana’s request to play the host and called for a constructive outcome that would effectively shape the future of the continent.
President Faure Gnassingbe and his Namibian counterpart, Hifikepunye Pohamba, in separate speeches, supported the call for increased intra-African trade, indicating that it was critical to the continent’s sustainable progress.
They recognised that the level of intra-African trade remained low compared to other regions around the globe and advocated the redoubling of efforts towards regional integration.
Dr. Pascal Dozie, Chairman of the Commonwealth Business Council and co-chair of the Forum, cited corruption as the “greatest bottleneck to Africa’s development.”
He called for more strategies to address the inadequacies in the development initiatives of the continent to create the requisite environment to attract investment.
Dr. Ishmael Yamson, Chairman of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre and co-chair of the Forum, said it was time for Africa to define its own development agenda to take advantage of opportunities in the aftermath of the global economic recession.