Patricia Francis calls on global leaders to restore economic confidence
Attending the third Annual Investment Meeting (AIM 2013) Conference and the Africa Global Business Forum (AGBF) 2013, both held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Executive Director Patricia Francis urged government leaders to do more to promote intra-Arab and intra-African trade – but also do more to increase trade between the two regions.
Ms Francis participated in the Ministerial Panel Discussion on 30 April at AIM 2013, called, ‘A Future International Economic Landscape in the Making, Implications on FDI and the Economic Prospects of Frontier and Emerging Markets’. She also spoke in a plenary session entitled, ‘The rise of Emerging Markets Transnationals, Sources and Leading Sectors’. Pointing out to the slowdown in the economic expansion in the BRICS countries – of Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa, Ms Francis said this was not only down to reduced global demand, but also because ‘reform has not kept pace with investments’.
‘When you look at so-called second tier countries such as Indonesia and Turkey, they have diversified their economies, allowing them to keep up the momentum,’ she said.
Ms Francis pointed out, though, that the BRICS will continue to be the main drivers of economic development, with intra-BRICS trade expected to reach US$ 500 billion annually in a few years’ time. She added that this would largely be driven by value-added trade. ‘Investments have to be a mix,’ she said, ‘and there will also be a need for a great deal of liberalization.’
Discussing upcoming challenges in international trade, Ms Francis said that recent years had been marked by a lack of trust and confidence among countries. ‘A big challenge for the new head of the WTO will be to restore confidence and trust between the north and the south, and build bridges,’ she said.
At AGBF 2013, jointly organized by Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Dubai Chamber on 1 and 2 May, Ms Francis participated in a plenary session on 1 May, called ‘The Business Circle’. During the session she emphasized that African companies have the skills to produce quality products, but they lack competitiveness.
She said a product could be of good quality, until it leaves a factory. ‘Once out of the factory, it loses its competitiveness’, she said. Products are stuck at border crossing, at ports, and poor infrastructure means that they, in the case of agriculture products, often rot before they reach either border or port. For African countries to achieve competitiveness for their products, they need to make it possible to transport a product across the border, Ms Francis said.
‘Barriers to exports are largely found on the national level,’ Ms Francis said, ‘but the solution can only be achieved on the regional level, through increased cooperation and better infrastructure.’
She also urged government leaders to do more to include women in their workforces because ‘unlocking the potential of women in the workforce is key to successful enter the global value chains,’ she said.