Many African countries prioritise advertising their institutions as business friendly, with hope that they will attract more investments, according to experts who attended Doing Business in Africa Conference in Kigali recently.
Although most of them were in the past characterised by political unrest and stagnant economies, World Bank reports show that Africa is now on the backdrop of realistic reforms, particularly economic reforms.
As African governments implement policy reforms, the World Bank, which has been a partner in both the excellent and unsuccessful policies, has changed its module in the way it intervenes in African activities.
In a show of commitment, the bank launched a new approach last month to aid Africa’s development.
The new approach, which replaces the completely failed Africa Action Plan, focuses on infrastructure development as its crucial area of intervention with hopes to attain real growth and improve basic services on the continent.
Experts who attended the conference in Kigali warned that poor infrastructure is the biggest challenge to true economic growth and development in Africa. Africa needs approximately US$93 billion for a full transformation of the infrastructure but only US$45 billion is available, most of which is from donors and development agencies.
However, African optimists hope that with the new World Bank policy combined with the current enthusiasm shown by African governments, economic reform will surely grace societies and all will finally be rosy for the continent, which is home to some one billion people.
“Although global support is essential and ideal, the power to build and accelerate the economy is in Africans’ own hands,” Salomon Samen, a Technical Advisor in the Ministry of Finance in Mauritius said.
While some Asian countries, which were at the same level of with Africa have developed tremendously, African countries stayed stagnant throughout centuries despite several concerted efforts.
Experts warned that African markets, by law, appear open but by fact are closed due to high tariffs and taxes, cumbersome rules and bureaucratic impediments that are still imposed on intra Africa trade.
They argue that formulation of laws is not an end in itself but something that must be followed with corresponding actions and goodwill to reach market targets.
“Out of 42 economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, electricity utilities in 18 economies reported lack of material which led to serious connection delays in the economy,” Carolin Geginat, a Private Sector Development Specialist said.
However, many countries have put in place strategies to improve power production. For instance Burundi, whose current power production is enough to provide power to only 2 percent of its population, plans to increase its power production from 35MW to 300MW.
By focusing on infrastructural development, Africa has taken a major stride towards real economic development.
However, it is important to put in place strategies and implementations that fight corruption and bribe; other than that, the economic development that Africa desires will be nothing but a virtual reality.