Ignatius Chomb, Zimbabwean Finance Minister said Thursday that Africa needs to diversify its exports through value addition to reduce vulnerability to commodity price shocks.
Chombo made the call while declaring open the 23rd Session of the Inter-Governmental Committee of Experts of Southern Africa in Bulawayo, themed “Trade Facilitation in Southern Africa: Bridging the Infrastructure Gap”.
He said the continent should also boost intra-Africa trade by addressing structural bottlenecks including infrastructure and border formalities.
“Although growth in the emerging markets of China, India, Brazil and Russia continues to drive commodities demand and hence anchor the growth impetus for our commodity-dependent economies, we need to diversify our sources of growth for sustainability,” he said.
The minister said high levels of indebtedness by African countries, slow growth in Western economies, low commodity prices and low resource inflows to the continent will continue to undermine growth in Africa in 2017 and beyond.
Chombo emphasised the importance for Africa to invest in infrastructure development, noting that the availability of infrastructure lowers costs, creates jobs, and supports growth and socio-economic development.
“Yet our region suffers from a critical infrastructure deficiency particularly regarding access to electricity, transport, information and communication technology, water and sanitation and irrigation,” the minister said.
“Rail infrastructure is generally poor and continues to deteriorate, air transport services are expensive and inefficient, and access to ICT, though improving, remains poor,” he said.
“The gap is real and needs to be addressed for industrialisation and socio-economic development,” the minister said.