Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Accelerating integration

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The Government of the Republic of South Sudan has pledged to establish a coordinating structure to accelerate infrastructure projects along the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor. This announcement was made by the Transport Minister, Madut Biar Yel, in Juba from May 17 to 19 at the conclusion of a three-day ministerial council meeting attended by ministers and senior officials from Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. The Ministers adopted the Juba Commitments, an 11-paragraph resolution, which calls on member states of LAPSSET to integrate corridor projects into their national development plans and develop a 10-year strategic plan for their implementation. One of the panelists during the conference was Kebour Ghenna. Kebour Ghenna is the Executive Director of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), which represents the interests of business and trade associations in Africa. He talked to Capital’s Groum Abate PACCI’s involvement in accelerating integrations like LAPSSET and AfCFTA. Excerpts;

 

 

Capital: How do you see the role of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry in promoting economic integration across the African continent?

Kebour Ghenna: The Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s role is to fight for the interests of Africa’s business and enterprise before inter-governmental organizations involved in trade issues and negotiations. We represent business in various events of the United Nations, engage with international regulatory agencies, the court of public opinion, and governments around the world. We also advocate, connect, inform, and fight for business growth and Africa’s success.

Capital: In what ways does the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry collaborate with other organizations, such as the African Union, to promote economic integration in Africa?

Kebour Ghenna: We collaborate with the AUC and other international organizations to promote economic integration in Africa. One way is by working together to create a favorable business environment that attracts foreign investment and encourages intra-Africa trade. We also collaborate on advocacy efforts aimed at reducing trade barriers and promoting regulatory harmonization across the continent. We also work together to share information and best practices on issues such as infrastructure development, agricultural transformation, and energy access.

Capital: What are some of the key challenges that the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry has encountered in promoting economic integration in Africa, and how have you addressed these challenges?

Kebour Ghenna: Let me go over the three or four key challenges that are challenges in promoting economic integration in Africa: First, inadequate Infrastructure which as you know hinders trade and cross-border investment, making it difficult for businesses to expand. Second lack of access to finance is also another crucial problem. Many African businesses struggle to access capital that they need to grow due to weak financial systems and a lack of credible financial instruments. PACCI has addressed this challenge by advocating for improved access to finance through partnerships with international finance institutions and regional banks. Third, I can mention various trade barriers: Non-tariff barriers to trade such as corruption, bureaucratic red tape, and informal trade practices present significant challenges to businesses trying to operate in Africa. PACCI is working with local associations to promote regulatory harmonization and reduce red tape at border posts. Fourth I want to mention insufficient capacity affecting many small and medium-sized enterprises in Africa that lack the skills, technology, and resources needed to successfully compete in global markets. PACCI has addressed this issue by supporting capacity-building initiatives like mentoring and training programs, which help to build up the capabilities of African entrepreneurs.
These are some of the challenges that PACCI faces when promoting economic integration in Africa. However, through its partnerships with national chambers of commerce and industry associations, governments, international organizations, and private sector entities, we feel we are well-positioned to overcome these obstacles and contribute towards a thriving African economy.

Capital: Can you tell me more about LAPSSET and what role will the private sector have on this initiative?

Kebour Ghenna: By and large, LAPSSET is a flagship project of Kenya’s government-sponsored Vision 2030. LAPSSET stands for: Lamu Port–South Sudan–Ethiopia Transport i.e. LAPSSET corridor ¬project is an ambitious infrastructure development project. It consists (at least for now) of a railway, a ¬highway, a fibre-optic cable and a crude oil pipeline linking oil fields in South Sudan, plus Turkana county in the far -north-west…. to a 32-berth port at Lamu on the Kenyan coast. A 50-km wide “special economic zone” straddling the corridor to attract investors in also part of it, accompanied by several associated projects, including three planned resort cities, oil processing facilities and airports.
The private sector will have a crucial role in building healthy vibrant communities. Local and regional business associations should build business partnerships, advocate for free movement of people, goods and capital, in other words borders should be open, people and businesses should move easily from one country to another. Business from the 3 countries should be incentivized to make investments in each other’s countries.

Capital: What would be the main reasons for businesses to invest in LAPSSET corridor?

(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

Kebour Ghenna: Because of the size of the proposed LAPSSET projects, initially the major private sector players will be large multi-national companies with smaller and medium companies participating as sub-contractors.
What I want to underline is that large multi-nationals favor mega-projects. We as continental chamber of commerce welcome an ambitious LAPSSET.
Look, businesses are inherently optimistic – they wouldn’t take risks if they weren’t. Having said that businesses in LAPSSET corridor, but also anywhere else, would always want to know how easy it is to do business, whether there is political stability, the quality of the workforce,, whether there is a growing and dynamic business environment, and an attractive, transparent and stable tax regime.

Capital: How does the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry support the growth and development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, and what impact do you think this has on economic integration in the continent?

Kebour Ghenna: Overall PACCI pays an important role in fostering an enabling environment for SMEs in Africa by advocating for their interests, providing capacity building initiatives, facilitating networking opportunities, improving access to finance, influencing policies and fostering knowledge sharing.

Capital: In your opinion, what are the most promising sectors for economic growth and development in Africa, and how is the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry supporting these sectors?

Kebour Ghenna: While the specific opportunities may vary depending on the country or region, some of the promising sectors are: agriculture and agri-business because of the vast arable land available and favorable climate conditions, Renewable energy is another sector I would say is promising because of the abundant renewable energy resources, including solar, wind, hydro and geothermal. Third I will mention manufacturing and industrialization which can drive economic transformation and job creation. ICT is another growth area because of a rapidly growing middle class and increasing mobile and Internet penetration.
There are also other sectors to consider such as financial services, mining, tourism, education, which hold potential for growth and development.

Capital: Looking ahead, what are some of the key priorities for the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry in promoting economic integration in Africa, and how do you plan to achieve these priorities?

Kebour Ghenna: Our top priorities is to push for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement by addressing trade barriers, enhancing trade infrastructure, finance, information, policy, firms’ productive capacity. We focus also in assisting women businesses grow and promote social, environmental and economic sustainability practices and how to apply them in a business context.

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