Increased Infrastructure, Labour-Intensive Manufacturing Key to Africa’s Industrial Competitiveness - Afreximbank President
Africa should focus on developing labour-intensive industries and providing effective logistics and transport infrastructure from factories to ports in order to become a globally competitive industrial player, Dr. Benedict Oramah, President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), has said in Geneva.
Speaking during a panel discussion on “Will economic nationalism put Africa first?” at the 2017 Africa CEO Forum on Monday, Dr. Oramah pointed to reports that showed that African industries were often more competitive than those in Asia at the factory level but noted that that advantage was lost once goods moved from the factory to the ports due to high logistics and transport costs.
He said that African governments should support the competitiveness of local industries by reducing the infrastructure gap while African enterprises should analyse global industrial value chains and set up activities in areas where they can deploy Africa’s competitive advantage which currently favoured labour-intensive industries.
Labour was competitive in Africa but was not a tradable asset, the President noted, adding, “at this stage, it might be better to import fabrics and transform them into garments or to produce and assemble other labour-intensive light-manufacturing goods rather than processing raw materials in a way that may not enable Africa to compete globally”.
He discouraged protectionism, saying that such an approach would not serve the interest of African economies as it could be an impediment to the creation of regional value chains and could play against the growth of local companies.
Other members of the panel were Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia; Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Minister of Industry and Trade of Morocco; Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the World Trade Organisation; Aboubaker Omar Hadi, Chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority; and Issad Rebrab, Chairman of Cevital. Nicholas Norbrook, Managing Editor of The Africa Report, moderated the session.
The President also participated in a public-private sector working group on the industrialization of Africa, which included Mebrhatu Meles, State Minister of Industry of Ethiopia; Thierry Tanoh, Minister of Petrol and Energy of Côte d’Ivoire; Arancha Gonzalez, Director General of the International Trade Centre; Regis Immongault, Minister of Economy of Gabon; Pierre Guislain, Vice-President of the African Development Bank in charge of the Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialisation; and several CEOs and industrialists operating businesses in agro-processing, mining, manufacturing and other sectors in Africa.
On the sidelines of the forum, President Oramah held bilateral meetings with Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet, the Prime Minister of Gabon; Mr. Azevedo; Mr. Guislain; and several other business leaders operating within Africa.
Accompanying the President from Afreximbank were Rene Awambeng, Director of Client Relations; Richman Dzene, Special Assistant to the President; Sarah Siliya of the Client Relations Department; and Fleur Tchibota of the Communications Unit.
The two-day Africa CEO Forum 2017, was organized under the theme “Shaping the Future of Africa”.