Africa must increase its competitiveness or risk jeopardizing its future growth, the Africa Competitiveness Report 2013 has warned.
According to the report, strides made by African economies in achieving economic growth must be accompanied by efforts to boost long-term competitiveness if the continent is to ensure sustainable improvements in living standards.
The report assesses prospects for sustainable growth of 38 African countries under the theme, 'Connecting Africa's Markets in a Sustainable Way.'
Jointly produced by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, it identifies closer regional integration as an important driver for enhancing competitiveness.
It said that regional integration is a key vehicle for helping Africa to raise competitiveness, diversifying its economic base and creating enough jobs for its young, fast-urbanizing population.
Touching on the key policy challenges in establishing closer regional integration, it said Africa's competitiveness as a whole lags behind other emerging regions especially in quality of institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic policies, education and technological adoption while big gaps persist in its highest and lowest ranked economies.
The report said Africa's exports remain heavily focused on commodities and its share of world trade remains low, despite numerous regional economic communities and domestic market liberalization, adding that intra-African trade is particularly limited.
The report identifies cumbersome and non-transparent border administration, particularly import-export procedure, limited use of information communication technologies (ICT) and persistent infrastructure deficit as major barriers to higher levels of regional integration. It also shows that these challenges are particularly pronounced in Africa's landlocked economies.
The report said Africa's infrastructure deficit presents a serious impediment to regional integration.
It said developing adequate and efficient infrastructure will assist African economies to increase productivity in manufacturing and service delivery, contribute to improvements in health and education and help ensure equitable distribution of national wealth.
By Cephas Larbi