The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), an agency of the African Union that implements high-impact development projects on the continent, has launched an initiative dubbed ‘MoveAfrica’ to help tackle policy hurdles to trade across the continent.
The drive was launched yesterday on the sidelines of the on-going World Economic Forum for Africa, in Kigali, with officials at the Nepad Planning and Coordinating Agency (Nepad Agency), saying the new effort will help address issues related to cross-border transport and logistics challenges on the continent.
It will seek to drive down costs and increase efficiency for logistics companies and manufacturers in various industries in Africa.
“We cannot hope for the industrialisation of our continent without functional transport infrastructure. This requires not only a quantitative improvement of our infrastructure, but also a radical simplification and harmonisation of regulatory conditions and procedures of business on the continent, what I would call the soft infrastructure,” Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the chief executive Nepad, said at the launch.
He said that it was surprising that an African businessperson cannot move freely across the continent, citing one-stop border posts between countries as key to easing movement within Africa.
Among the targeted ‘soft issues’ hoped to be addressed by MoveAfrica include the laws governing cross-border transport, regulations for crossing the border such as customs clearance and quarantine, as well as the systems and organisational resources for the operation and maintenance of hard infrastructure, such as roads and ports.
Nepad officials say figures indicate that the volume of trade in sub-Saharan Africa will more than triple by 20130, from 102.6 million tonnes in 2009 to 384 million tonnes.
“Boosting intra-Africa trade has to be addressed and there is a need for active intervention from all stakeholders under the framework of the Continental Free Trade Area that was signed in 2012,” said Fatima Haram Acyl, the AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry.
She said the African Union has a customs trade facility and welcomed Nepad’s move to implement customs standards.
Large multinationals are forced to go to great lengths to keep costs down when operating in Africa, experts say.
In one instance, it was said, a representative of a car manufacturer told Nepad officials that they have to charter Airbus planes to move vehicles from Johannesburg in South Africa to Nairobi, Kenya. Another manufacturer in the soda industry said that it is easier and cheaper to buy passion fruit from China, move it to Kenya, bottle it and sell it in Kenya, than it is to buy directly from next-door Uganda due to transport hurdles.
Nigerian entrepreneur and investor Tony Elumelu, who witnessed the launch of MoveAfrica in Kigali, welcomed the initiative, describing it as a boost to efforts to enhance intra-Africa trade.
“We see the need to pay attention to the political aspects of infrastructure,” he said.
He added: “Our governments are trying but we can do a lot more. Transportation sector is a long-term investment and requires huge capital. So we need our governments to help the private sector with policies that encourage us to bring capital”.
“They have a key role to play but we have to let them know that the private sector is willing to engage. This is the reason why I take the MoveAfrica initiative very seriously”.
The initiative will, among others, see the publication of an annual report that ranks and tracks the continent’s ability to move goods and services, convening of an annual stakeholder roundtable briefing, and engagement of a consultative group of business leaders on the improvement of transport and logistics in Africa.
The MoveAfrica initiative is part of the Continental Business Network (CBN), established by the Nepad Agency, as an African Union Heads of State and Government response to facilitate private sector advice and leadership in essential continent-wide infrastructure projects.
By Eugene Kwibuka