Africa is growing dramatically as a market: AfDB chief
By Biswajit Choudhury, New Delhi, Feb 3 : Africa is not all about natural resources and old ways of looking at the continent have to change, says African Development Bank (AfDB) chief Donald Kaberuka. He said, unlike Europeans, emerging economies like India have taken a different view of an Africa that is changing dramatically.
"Africa is changing and the future is in our demographic dynamics, the future is in our demand as a market," Kaberuka told IANS in an interview here.
While its large mineral wealth is a basis for the perception of Africa, Kaberuka said such a view was a legacy of the colonial past that continues to colour European engagement with an emerging Africa that now comprises 54 nations.
"Europeans are still in the prison of the 1990s when the African situation reflected the lost decades past of poverty and huge macroeconomic imbalances," Kaberuka, who was on a business visit to India last week, said.
And based on this different reading of Africa, most of the companies are coming from India, Brazil and Turkey to do business.
The Europeans have now begun "waking up" to the increasing presence of emerging economies' companies only to give it a negative connotation.
"What are the Chinese, Brazilians, Indians doing here? Are you sure they are not here to exploit Africans? they (Europeans) ask," Kaberuka said.
The AfDB head said India-Africa trade had grown more than six-fold in the last five years to nearly USD 50 billion from around USD 7 billion.
"Fifty percent of Africa's exports to India is oil, but Africa is more than just oil and gas, gold and diamonds," said Kaberuka.
India is moving in that direction, emphasising on capacity building in its engagement with African trading partners, with many of whom it has old cultural links. It has made efforts to change its composition towards more value-added exports from the continent.
"Africa should try to exploit India's experience with development," Kaberuka said.
India has committed to set up 32 capacity-building institutions at the regional level and 40 at the bilateral level in Africa.
Kaberuka also called for faster progress in African economic integration. The continent made up of 54 countries with so many currencies as also numerous borders and separate rules and regulations are barriers to expanding engagement.
"Faster progress is required in African integration. For instance, only 11 countries out of the 54 have GDPs higher than USD 50 billion," Kaberuka said.
However, there is a "new dynamic" for integration, he said, referring to Africa's association with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa) group of countries which are renewing South-South cooperation, he said.
(Biswajit Choudhury can be contacted at email@example.com)