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North African integration is a must to compete globally - AfDB

North African integration is a must to compete globally - AfDB
The City of Alexandria, Egypt

By: Moslem Ali

Cairo - Mubasher: The African Development Bank (AfDB) has invested around $20 billion in North African countries during the last 35 years, according to the bank’s vice president for regional development, integration and business delivery, Khaled Sherif.

Around $2 billion of those investments have been pumped since 2011, Sherif said in a speech to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) Business Forum for the southern and eastern Mediterranean region (SEMED), which was recently held in Cairo.

The AfDB strategy for the region is built on five pillars, he indicated, noting that the first is providing a sustainable energy source that generates electricity for households and industries so that business can thrive.

The second is ensuring food security for the growing populations, and working to slash imports that drain foreign exchange reserves.

Thirdly, integrating North African economies, by stamping out trade barriers, connecting energy systems and electricity grids.

According to the vice president of the African Development Bank, the region needs to learn from the European Union that only as a coalition will there be a catalyst for economic growth.

The fourth pillar is industrialization, where Sherif also stressed that in order to compete with the rest of the world like China, large production and economies of scale are needed, and this can only apply through the integration and industrialization for the whole region, so that it may be able to compete with current powerhouses.

The AfDB VP praised how Asian learned how to integrate and trade with itself very effectively, noting that this is a model to follow for North African economies.

The fifth and final pillar, is working to improve the quality of life, with a key element is decreasing unemployment, which averages 30%, with most of the unemployed youth are well educated.

We need one million new jobs every year to ensure unemployment does not continue to rise.

Sherif also pointed to the dire need of foreign direct investments (FDI), indicating that investors only come to where the opportunity exists, and where they can make profit.

He then highlighted some the region's advantages, especially cheap money and cheap labour force, and also praised Egypt's recent efforts to transform its economy over the last 18 months, to allow free movement of capital, free exchange rates, and achieve the highest foreign-currency reserves in a decade.