The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has assured members of the Africa Economic Zones Organisation (AEZO) of the bank’s continued investments to close the infrastructure gap that has limited the capacity of the AEZO to be as vibrant as other zones in Asia and other parts of the world.
Adesina gave this assurance recently, when he spoke during the Fifth Annual Meeting of the AEZO.
He said: “Globally, special economic zones have powered the economic growth of several countries. Their numbers have exploded from less than 200 in the 1980s to 5,000 today. Collectively, they have contributed exports worth $3.5 trillion, roughly 20 per cent of global trade in goods. But in Africa, special economic zones are operating in 38 countries, accounting for an annual trade turnover of $680 million.”
He said the special economic zones have not been as successful in Africa compared to Asia and other parts of the world because of limited infrastructure, weaker institutional environment and coordination challenges, limited access to financing to develop well-integrated value chains and the primary focus of the special economic zones on exports alone.
Adesina noted that the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), would positively change the fortunes of the continent’s AEZO by redirecting their focus to the regional markets in the continent and enable Africa to develop its manufacturing capacity.
He said: “Today, let me highlight one important opportunity: agriculture. Agriculture, food and agribusiness is the sector with the largest potential wealth impact for Africa.
“The size of the food and agriculture market is estimated to rise to over $1 trillion by 2030. Tapping into this massive market requires a structural approach to develop better-integrated food and agriculture value chains.”
The President of the AfDB also promised that the bank would continue to support the development of Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs), which would focus on agro-industrialisation by investing massively in integrated infrastructure, in areas of high potential agricultural value chains; including processing, marketing and logistics.
“The SAPZs will help to unlock vast economic and trade opportunities from value- added agriculture in Africa. Five SAPZs are already in implementation, including Ethiopia’s integrated agro-industrial parks, Togo’s Agro-food processing zones, and in Senegal and Guinea. Several more are planned. Regional SAPZs will also consolidate integrated infrastructure and agricultural processing and food manufacturing companies around regional transport corridors,” he said.