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23.05.2007 General News

Africa Must Encourage Competition — Study

African countries need to allow more competition in their economies and deepen reforms in the financial and labour sectors in order to sharpen their global competitiveness, a key researcher has said in a study.

Preliminary findings of a team drafting the Africa Competitive Report 2007, indicate that the continent should further push reforms in its tax and legal systems and address corruption problems in order to gain a competitive edge, according to Waheed Oshikoya, director of the African Development Bank's (AfDB) research department.

The 2007 report will be a product of the co-operation between the bank, the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum and the World Bank.

This is the first time that the AfDB and the World Bank are involved in publishing the report, as the first three reports were brought out by the World Economic Forum alone.

The report, which has seven chapters, will also provide country profiles and examine many aspects of Africa's business environment, such as productivity and investment drivers.

Issues ranging from the effect of gender disparities, employment and competitiveness, to the role of new technologies in fostering a more dynamic business environment will also be examined in the report.

Mr Oshikoya said the report could serve as a useful tool for policy makers, the business community and the international donor community alike.

Infrastructure is still one of the continent's top constraints with regard to energy, transportation in particular, and that access to finance was also a major hurdle for African businesses, he said.

He said the report would suggest that institutions in Africa needed to be more business friendly and also noted that corruption remained an obstacle for many African countries.

He said Africa offered many examples of success, but sub-Saharan Africa still lagged behind on the global competitiveness index, primarily due to basics such as infrastructure and education.

Labour reforms and tax regulations, the researcher said, were some of the areas that Africa needed to look at.

The report will assess the competitiveness of the investment climate in Africa's four largest economies namely, South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt which account for half of the continent's gross domestic product and almost one-third of its population.

The preliminary findings showed that the four countries had both the size and the scale to be major drivers of Africa's economic growth.