Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has called on African leaders to accelerate regional integration to boost economic and social development in the continent.
Addressing African heads of state and international business leaders at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, Obasanjo said: “Africa needs greater integration to match itself with the rest of the world.”
Obasanjo, a member of the Africa Progress Panel, noted that greater integration would support efforts to deal with issues of crime and corruption, and even disease.
“There should be no hiding place or safe haven for criminals or corrupt private and public officials in one country to avoid punishment for what they have done in other countries.
“Talking about corruption, it will be severely reduced in Africa if those who are investing and doing business in Africa, maintain the same standard of integrity, ethics and avoid corruption as they do in their home countries,” he said.
The former Nigeria president, who was the keynote speaker at the Africa Investor CEO Institutional Investment Summit, attended by African leaders, senior UN officials and leaders in the private sector, also told the Summit that Africa could not make collective progress unless “we have collective and central means of addressing most of the issues that affect us as Africans”.
According to him, some of the issues include poverty, health, trade, economy, human development, security, corruption and food security.
Others are transport and infrastructure, environment and climate change and inadequate voice and representation on the global arena.
Obasanjo also highlighted a number of tangible benefits for investors from greater integration, including ease of business registration, and harmonisation of transport, energy and communications infrastructure.
He stressed that greater integration would enhance returns on investment on the continent and encouraged the assembled business leaders to consider the changing investment climate in Africa.
“Many African countries are responsive to positive advice from the private sector on what the private sector needs to do to boost business in Africa and to move the African economy forward into the mainstream of the global economy”.
In his contribution, AU Chairman Jean Ping said Africa was emerging as the new frontier in doing business and urged investors to take advantage of the continent’s potential and market.
“Africa today is a continent inhabited by one billion of consumers, by 2015 it will be inhabited by two billion consumers, more than China and India.”
“‘We hope that this will be sufficient to attract investors to a continent which is 10 times the size of India, four times China in size,” he said.
Also speaking, Cheick Diarra, UN Under Secretary-General for Least Developed Countries, said over the past decade a lot of positive changes have taken place in Africa, adding that “the continent was home to six out of 10 fastest growing economies in the world.
“Africa’s economy grows on the average at around five per cent annually.
“This performance was underpinned by sound macro-economic and structural reforms within a context of a more stable political environment characterised by a decline in conflicts and an improved governance institutions as well as an improved role for the private sector,” he said.