Call to boost intra-African trade to ride out crunch

DAR ES SALAAM - 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.

DAR ES SALAAM - 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.

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 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 the slowdown's limited effect on African economies was a "short-term advantage".

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," she said.

"If Africans are buying more of their own stuff then you have less of a concern over demand from other parts of the world."

Eleven African heads of state and government are expected here for the 20th WEF on Africa, to discuss strategies for the continent in the aftermath of the economic downturn.

"Africa is a continent full of potential.

"Africa has been growing despite the economic instability that is facing the world today," Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said.

"We will have the opportunity to examine the strategy of Africa for today to ensure that there is a better tomorrow," he added in remarks posted on the WEF website.

"Developing trade among ourselves is important. This is happening. There are many trade blocs in the continent.

"Trade among East African Community countries is growing," the Tanzanian president said at the briefing.

However, Blanke noted that high tariffs, customs procedures and corruption were holding back intra-African trade.

"It gets very expensive to get one thing from one African capital to another," she said. - Sapa-AFP

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