ARUSHA - President Paul Kagame has repeated his call for more efficient regional blocks as an effective measure for Africa to increase domestic investment and spur economic growth and development on the continent. The President first called for cross border reforms in customs operations in a speech he presented to the Commonwealth Heads of State’s meeting in Kampala in November 2007. Speaking to a packed hall Wednesday at the ongoing 8th edition of the Leon H. Sullivan summit in Arusha’s International Conference Centre (AICC), Kagame emphasized that only more investment and efficiency of regional integration will ensure Africa’s escape from poverty.
He said that the absence of regional economic infrastructure is a major hindrance to Africa’s growth and social economic transformation.
Kagame lamented the unnecessary administrative bureaucracy which makes doing business in Africa very difficult.
He added that researchers had discovered that African investors spend a lot of time filing paper work rather than carrying out actual commercial transactions.
He said the delays reduce the volume of trade on the continent and is counter-productive in the fight against poverty on the continent.
“Each additional day an export transaction is held up in a country, that country distances itself from its trading partners by 1 percent,” emphasised Kagame.
He also questioned the wisdom of transporting a container of goods from Mombasa to Kigali at a cost of $5600, yet the cost from Mombasa to Antwerp in Belgium costs only $1200.
He added that the delay in carrying out commercial transactions was not only due to poor infrastructure in Sub Saharan Africa alone, “but also the result of regional bureaucratic obstacles such as cumbersome trans-border customs procedures, clearing, cargo inspections and corruption.”
Kagame pointed out that the above challenges are even worse for landlocked countries including Rwanda, “whose products need to comply with different requirements at every border post.”
He gave an example of one African country where preparations for exporting involved filing 11 documents, 17 visits to different offices, 29 signatures and 60 days to move goods from the factory to the shop.
He said that such practices have made doing business in Africa very expensive, “and our competition dismal.”
Kagame said the East African Community had set up the East African Infrastructure Strategy 2010 which calls for the rehabilitation of major interconnecting trade corridors and renovation of airports.
Rwanda and Tanzania are set to build a railway line linking Rwanda and the seaport of Dar es Salaam to ease regional infrastructure problems.
Ambassador Andrew Young, a representative of the US government and one of the organisers of the summit, sang to the tune of Bob Marley’s famous song ‘One Love’ and emphasised African unity as one of the sparks to African growth investment.
James Patterson, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, extensively quoted Pan-African intellectual Marcus Garvey as he appealed for Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora to unite and develop each other.
He said that Africans would one day be able to defeat poverty as they had defeated colonialism.
Leon H. Sullivan was an African-American cleric and international humanitarian. He preached positively, encouraging commitment of resources of the African Diaspora and friends of Africa to promote positive change in the world. He also championed self-help, social responsibility, economic empowerment, and human rights.
The Eighth Leon Sullivan Summit, whose theme is “Tourism and Infrastructure Development”, will focus on education, investment, environmental sustainability, energy, infrastructure and tourism.
It aims at advancing physical and economic infrastructure, especially power, transport and information technology through regional economic community discussions. T
he Sullivan Summits are a bridge between America and Africa, serving as a forum for economic and cultural cooperation.
They bring together the world’s political and business leaders, delegates representing international organisations and academic institutions.
Kigali will host the next Leon H. Sullivan summit in 2010.