The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) President addressed the media on the sidelines of the bank’s annual meetings in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
Speaking at a press conference shortly before the African Development Bank’s 54th annual meeting in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo, Akinwumi Adesina, the bank’s President, identified regional integration as key to unlocking Africa’s true potential.
As the theme for this year’s conference, he underlined the importance of cross-border collaboration and drew comparisons to other regions across the world.
“In Europe regional trade amounts to 70% of the total; in Asia it is 60%; in Africa it is only 18%,” Adesina said.
While he applauded the fact that Africa is growing faster than much of the rest of the world, he argued that the lack of intra-African trade is putting the breaks on the growth story.
“Today the level of growth across the continent is at 4% and next year it will rise to 4.1% – compared to a 3.3% global average and only 1.6% in places like the Eurozone,” he said.
“At the same time we want to have higher growth than that, and to achieve that we need integration. Integration is the force which we cannot ignore.”
The president applauded the coming of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) – a zero-tariff area which will give rise to combined market potential of $3.3trn – and said it will be the biggest zone in the world since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995.
The development bank, he said, for its part, has been working to facilitate cross-border trade by investing heavily in infrastructure, energy and trade finance.
Up to $1bn has been invested in trade finance across the continent; together with $1bn invested in the bank’s partner, Afreximbank, who specialise in intra-African trade as an import-export bank.
In addition, AfDB has invested $630m in two South African banks – FirstRand and Absa – in order to drive trade out from the southern-Africa giant into over 20 countries.
Often referred to as Africa’s strongest optimist, Adesina reminded stakeholders to continue working together to achieve the dream of a prosperous and integrated continent.
“We are here today because we believe in Africa,” he said.
“We need to integrate our nations; it is very simple.”