Africa: WTO Urges African Leaders to Prioritize Investment for Economic Development

WTO Urges African Leaders to Prioritize Investment for Economic Development
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The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has emphasized the importance of attracting investment in various sectors to drive economic growth across Africa. Speaking at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Investment Forum 2024 in Togo, Okonjo-Iweala highlighted key areas where investment could make a significant impact.

One of the primary areas of focus urged by Okonjo-Iweala is energy development, emphasizing the need for investment in renewable energy to meet the continent’s growing energy demands sustainably. Additionally, she stressed the importance of creating opportunities for youth employment through agriculture, leveraging innovative financing mechanisms and regulatory frameworks to bridge Africa’s persistent infrastructure deficit.

Despite challenges stemming from the global pandemic, Okonjo-Iweala believes that regional integration, particularly through initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), presents significant opportunities for attracting investments. She emphasized the importance of reducing commercial costs within the ECOWAS region and enhancing physical and digital infrastructure to facilitate trade and economic development.

Echoing Okonjo-Iweala’s sentiments, Kanayo Awani, Executive Vice President at African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), highlighted the critical role of infrastructure development in driving economic growth. Awani emphasized the need for sustainable financing mechanisms and regulatory frameworks to address Africa’s infrastructure deficit, citing Afreximbank’s ongoing infrastructure projects across the continent.

Mabouba Diagne, Vice President in charge of finance and institutional services at ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, emphasized the urgency of focusing on agricultural production and processing. Diagne stressed the importance of establishing a circular economy and leveraging financial institutions to address agricultural challenges effectively.

Geoffrey Nsofon, Head of Private Sector Engagement at TAAT Clearinghouse, emphasized the need to empower farmers with technology and investment to enhance agricultural productivity. Nsofon highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships and government support in driving agricultural development across the region.

Helen Brume, Director of Project and Asset Financing at Afreximbank, underscored the importance of fostering partnerships between the public and private sectors to facilitate investment. Brume emphasized the need for resources to support investment initiatives and encouraged collaboration with local investors to drive economic development.

Overall, the call to prioritize investment in key sectors such as energy, agriculture, and infrastructure underscores the commitment of African leaders and stakeholders to driving inclusive economic growth and development across the continent.

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