On October 5, the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) hosted a meeting with Jean-Louis Ekra, president of the African Export Import Bank. The meeting marked an important opportunity for members of the private sector, the U.S. government, and AGI staff to discuss infrastructure investments that might better facilitate trade between African nations, as well as identify successful projects that may be replicated elsewhere. The group initially discussed the establishment and operations of the Africa Export Import Bank, and, more specifically, the problem of Africa’s infrastructure deficit and the implications for economic growth and possible ways to address this shortage.
One of the many issues that arose throughout the dialogue dealt with the low level of intra-African trade. A number of reasons were cited for this state of affairs: the high number of countries in Africa and the consequent problems associated with many border crossings, the continent’s poor infrastructure and its lack of intraregional economic diversification. Solutions to increase intra-African trade were also discussed. These included the expansion of “development corridors,” which encourage economic growth within well-defined geographic boundaries, the standardization of cross-border customs procedures and a push for greater infrastructure.
The need for infrastructure was a common theme throughout the discussion. In particular, much of the conversation focused on the role that the private sector should play in closing Africa’s infrastructural deficit and how it might partner with the public sector to do so. The meeting closed with a discussion on how the African Export Import Bank could be uniquely positioned to assist in these efforts.