We caught up for a quick Q&A with Kebour Ghenna, Executive Director of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), the host of the Pan African Business Conference, taking place on May 24th, 2013. The Conference, which is supported by the AU, is organized to mark the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU.
Capital: How do you envision the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s role in Africa evolving in the upcoming years?
Kebour Ghenna: PACCI’s missions in Africa are threefold:
Promoting ethical and sustainable business practices and standards in African countries;
Facilitating communication between the business and political communities and representing our members` interests in political circles to improve the business environment;
Promoting African regional integration.
Those will continue to be the strategic frameworks for our involvement in the region. Our driving force will continue to be the demand of our members – private sector organizations, and businesses. We view ourselves as a facilitator in the implementation of public policies at continental level.
Capital: I understand the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry is pushing for more integration, but how is Africa’s economy faring?
Kebour: Well you’re right, I feel that African countries should substantially increase their spending on infrastructure and strengthen regional ties. This is the route to bring in growth for Africa and also to strengthen Africa’s competitiveness. According to the IMF, the region’s economy is expected to grow 6.1% in 2014, more than the previous estimate of 5.7% and the 5.6% projected growth for this year. The global economy is set to expand 4% next year, up from 3.3% in 2013.
Two countries Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest producer of cocoa, and Mozambique, the site of the world’s biggest gas discovery, will both expand 8% next year, the fastest pace in the region. South Africa is also doing well with growth reaching 3.3% in 2014, up from 2.8%. Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, will also expand 7% in 2014. You can say things, by and large, are going well for Africa compared to the global average.
Capital: And in Ethiopia?
Kebour: Ethiopia will still be among the fastest growing non-oil producing economies in Africa. Growth this year and next, is projected to be over 7%. Inflation is down, substantially down to 6%. By and large, all the economic trends are positive, except for the systemic trade deficit and un-employment.
Capital: I understand that UNDP and the UN Global Compact have partnered in organizing this Conference, how do you perceive this relationship?
Kebour: PACCI’s relationship with both the UNDP and the UN Global Compact has started with this conference. UNDP has a relatively long track record in Africa working in development, still its presence in business is yet to be felt. I think their new program focusing on inclusive markets looks a game changer. We hope we’ll see increasing relations between UNDP and business in Africa. As for the UN Global Compact it works closely with large corporations in promoting universal principles, we’ll see if there are ways we at PACCI can increase this relations in the future. We still have to learn much from those two institutions which have been and continue to be major partners for Africa’s development. I also want to stress the support of the African Union Commission to PACCI, which has not only played an important role in helping us craft this conference, but also in providing us a regular platform to advance trade related issues.
Capital: In your view, what are some of the success stories and challenges ahead for Africa?
Kebour: I think the vast majority of Africa today provides a source of inspiration for many. And in a way the growth rates can be considered as one indicator of the success. I think what makes the current situation remarkable, is not just the economic dynamism we witness but also the realization by governments that Africans will no more accept poor government and poor leadership anymore. The challenge is for African governments to undertake concerted measures to build economies that work, economies which generate jobs and investment, and provide a future for their people. I think African business and public leaders are well placed to provide Africans with a very sound and strong base to address the challenges ahead.