To grow, Africa must look inwards

A united Africa working towards common goals could be a global game-changer.

Mozambique is one of the 27 nations to sign the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. Picture: Primedia

As economic growth weakens globally, Africa is poised to become more self-reliant than ever before.

The potential for increased intra-continental trade is ripe, with the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) now in force between 27 nations. But how can we encourage Africans to do more business with each other?

Standard Bank chief economist Goolam Ballim believes the agreement could be just the inspiration we need to become less reliant on emerging or developing nations elsewhere for raw materials.

Commodity dependency can prove to be a curse. So building supply chains across borders [and] across regions will be critical, even if it is a multi-year and multi-decade process.

Goolam Ballim, chief economist - Standard Bank

Ballim says the real opportunity for Africa lies in beneficiation: the treatment of raw materials like agricultural products and other resources to improve their economic value, which could effectively help establish an industrial base here and spur Africans to consume more products from the continent.

But key to the ACFTA’s success will be social relevance - and whether people believe it will benefit them.

My sense is [that] this particular plan… is suited to find traction at a time when there is a restlessness, a very useful restlessness among Africans, which will have to be included. Otherwise, it's unlikely to succeed.

Goolam Ballim, chief economist - Standard Bank

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Listen to the full conversation between EWN's WEF Africa correspondent Arabile Gumede and Goolam Ballim, chief economist at Standard Bank below.