AFRICAN countries, bruised by the global financial crisis, must restructure their economies and boost trade among themselves to ride out economic storms, a top economist said yesterday.
Improving infrastructure, governance, financial institutions as well as adopting new technologies can insure African economies against the effects of another meltdown, said Jennifer Blanke, a senior economist with the World Economic Forum, which opened in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, yesterday.
"These are the issues that will enhance Africa's growth potential and also prepare African economies more for facing any kind of disruption," Blanke said.
She added that the slowdown's limited effect on African economies was a "short-term advantage".
"The lesson is to strengthen your economies so that when this happens again - and it will - you are better placed to ride off the storm,' Blanke said.
Although Africa was spared much of the ravages of the global economic downturn, reduced trade, declining remittances and dwindling foreign investment piled pressure on the continent.
"What really affected Africa was a decline in demand and a decline in prices that Africa was getting for its goods. If Africans are buying more of their own stuff then you have less of a concern over demand from other parts of the world," she added.
Eleven African heads of state and government, including President Jacob Zuma, are attending the 20th World Economic Forum on Africa, to discuss strategies for the continent in the aftermath of the downturn.
"Africa is a continent full of potential. Africa has been growing despite the economic instability that is facing the world today," Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete said.
The 20th World Economic Forum on Africa, themed "Rethinking Africa's Growth Road Map", started last night and continues until tomorrow.
Zuma is accompanied by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, and Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.
SA business leaders are also attending the meeting. - Sapa-AFP