Africa could rival Asia - Zuma
Johannesburg - Trade between African countries would reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth, President Jacob Zuma said in Ethiopia on Saturday.
"Intra and inter-regional trade is not an option, it is an imperative," Zuma said in a speech planned for delivery at the 26th New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) heads of state and government orientation committee meeting in Addis Ababa.
The Nepad meeting was a forerunner to the 18th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly, which takes place on Sunday and Monday in the Ethiopian capital.
Zuma said Africa was poised for economic growth that could rival Asia, especially as the global economic balance of power shifted from north to south.
The International Monetary Fund said recently the economy of the African continent would grow by over five percent, on average, in the next two years.
"We have to take important steps to benefit from the opportunities that have become open," Zuma said. Weak infrastructure was a threat to the development of the entire continent and was a priority of the African Union.
South Africa was leading the AU's presidential infrastructure championing initiative and had been tasked with ensuring the north-south rail and road corridor was working. The corridor was the main trade route between Durban and Dar-es-Salaam, in Tanzania.
The initiative included physical and procedural improvements at border crossings, energy as well as information and communications technologies.
Excluding South Africa's road network, the corridor measured 8600 kilometres - some of which needed immediate attention.
The assessment estimated that US6.9bn was needed for capital investment and recurrent costs. Some work on improving roads was already underway. The president said that Africa lent itself to railway infrastructure but much existing infrastructure was inadequate and in poor repair.
"There is work to be done. But we must proceed, all of us, with a greater sense of urgency, with greater cohesion and more collaboration."