Africa is still a much untapped region when it comes to economic opportunities. Foreign investors flood into the continent to explore key areas they can tap into. The African Union (A.U.) through its vision 2063 realises the importance of an economically integrated Africa.
The AfroChampions Initiative has created the AfroChampions Club. The initiative is a set of innovative public-private partnerships and flagship programs designed to galvanize African resources and institutions to support the emergence and success of African private sector multinational champions in the regional and global spheres. The platform is set to mobilise African multinationals to accelerate the economic integration of the continent.
The club, which has Africa’s richest man as its president, Aliko Dangote had its inaugural meeting with key business leaders from 13 African countries. Nigeria’s Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki who is also the president of the AfroChampions Initiative and Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo who is also the Patron of the initiative were part of the high powered meeting.
There has been talks about the socio-economic integration of the continent but in practice these the implementation has been rather slow. Dangote said, “We have chosen to work on issues of interest to all Africans. The African Free Trade Area will give us the ability to travel and work easily across the continent; it will also foster the creation of regional value chains, integrating SMEs and building capacities in our countries.”
The initiative is what many Africans desire. There is no doubt about the pan-African approach the AU is taking influenced the initiative. Trade integration levels on the continent are still low as compared to other regions. Barriers to trade continue to limit the growth of trade across Africa.
“Regional trade integration has long been a strategic objective for Africa yet, despite some success in eliminating tariffs within regional communities, the African market remains highly fragmented. A range of non-tariff and regulatory barriers still raise transaction costs and limit the movement of goods, services, people and capital across borders throughout Africa” a statement by Anabel González a Senior Director of the World Bank Group Global Practice on Trade and Competitiveness noted in 2015.
There are attempts to boost regional growth following the launch of the African passport in Rwanda. Part of the discussions held at the inaugural meeting revolved around visa waivers and trade facilitation between African states.
The initiative drafted an AfroChampions Charter that will define how African multinationals can contribute to the development of the continent. According to Dangote, The Charter “is a commitment by African multinationals to invest more and better in Africa in those projects with strong economic and social impacts. Our primary responsibility is to give our youth jobs and a future.”
With this initiative, the future of African economic integration holds promise. The focus on the continent by African CEOs is a huge step in the right way.