Mo Ibrahim: "The other, brighter Africa"

Mohamed Ibrahim, telecom billionaire, writes:

"Alongside this focus on improving African governance, we must also put pressure on our leaders to encourage regional integration. Many small, landlocked African countries will never become serious players in the global economy without increased cooperation within their own regions.

"Today’s haphazard, overlapping regional integration is proving largely ineffective, and this severely hampers African countries’ ability to compete in international markets.

"One of the consequences of this lack of cooperation for Africa’s 967 million people is the bureaucratic replication and currency-exchange issues that being divided into 53 countries entails. China, with 1.3 billion people, is just one country; and the European Union, with some 500 million people, functions as a single economic market, with most of its members sharing a single currency.

"If Africa’s small and diverse nations do not come together, they will never integrate properly into the world economy, and so will not reap the benefits of our globalised world.

"Economic integration must be backed up by increased intra-regional trade; less than 4% of Africa’s trade is between African countries, compared to over 70% in Europe and over 50% in Asia.

"The International Monetary Fund credits Asian intra-regional trade as the main factor behind its recent export boom and strong economic growth. Africa, with its huge and often untapped markets, must follow the same path."

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