Roundup: World Economic Forum to seek solutions to African integration challenges

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The 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa opening in Abuja on Wednesday will seek to find solutions to challenges of Africa's economic integration agenda.

It will rally the heads of state from around the continent to seek solutions to challenges in the plans drawn by the African Union(AU), which many people do not see as inclusive enough.

In an interview with Xinhua here on Monday, Elsie Kanza, director and head of Africa for the World Economic Forum, conceded that the plans drawn by the African leaders towards the economic integration of the continent were not necessarily in sync with the aspirations of all.

"The forum on Africa will have among them a community of leaders from the continent who will discuss the way forward for these plans," she said, adding that the intuitional framework had been put together by the leaders for the continent's economic integration.

There will be a session of the forum dedicated to discussing the program for continental free trade, according to Kanza.

"There are inconsistencies in the practices that happen among African nations in relation to protocols at continental level regarding integration," the director pointed out.

She urged that these things need to be corrected because economic integration is absolutely critical. "We have one challenge that many of our markets are small, relatively speaking, " she said.

As a first step, she called for the urgent easing of travel regulations among AU member states, deploring the practice where it is easier for an African to travel to countries outside the continent, or for people from other continents to travel to African countries, than it is for Africans to travel to their neighboring countries.

"AU needs to work closer with other stakeholders in the community to make these plans a reality. This is exactly what they are doing," she added.

In Agriculture, for instance, Kanza said the continent's agriculture initiative called The Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program some countries are implementing was commendable and a necessary first step.

Now more efforts need to be done, she urged. "This is why we work with governments to form public private cooperation to increase private sector participation and local private sector as well as global private sector," added the director.

According to her, the organization was also working with smallholder farmers to increase their technical expertise, their capacities and their ability to respond to better environment to bigger markets.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweila, Minister for Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, stressed the need for inclusive growth which would carry everybody along at the conference.

"Nigeria represents the success story as well as the challenges of the African economy. It has grown, but the growth does not create jobs, and does not carry everybody along," she lamented.

She said it was therefore important for every stakeholder, from the private sector, public sector and civil society as well as government to join in addressing the medium to long term challenges.

The minister also announced that as a security measure for the forum, the government had decided that all public sector workers should have a holiday for the three days that the forum would take place to ensure that the traffic situation does not give way to any security risk.

The Nigerian capital saw two bomb blasts in the last two weeks, claiming dozens of lives in their wake. Endi

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