The Senior Vice President of MTN Group, Ebenezer Asante, has emphasised the crucial need for robust measures to break all trade barriers that deter mutual prosperity on the African continent while advocating openness for trade to thrive.
Mr. Asante, who said he envisages a future where ‘tyranny of sovereignty’ across the continent will make way for a united influential voice to shape Africa’s destiny on the global stage, added: “Africa must open up; the sovereigns must open up! Because if we play it small, we will not have a future. But if we play it big, then we have a voice and we can only play it big when we are playing with the 1 billion people on the continent. That is when we can make a difference”.
He made this call at the Africa Prosperity Dialogues (APD) 2024 at the Peduase Presidential Lodge in the Eastern Region, where he further highlighted the need for Africa to rethink and reposition itself strategically for prosperity, especially when it accounts for just three percent of the about US$25.3trillion global trade.
Speaking on the topic ‘Doing Business Differently – Adding Value to What we Produce’, he charged the continent to better position itself to export more by converting its numerous raw materials into distinctive value additions.
“Sustainability is not just an issue of how we organise ourselves, but there is also a business angle to it. As a continent, we are resource-rich but we are not able to translate that into distinctive value additions. The resources are taken from here and shipped across the rest of the world and then returned as finished products. If we are talking about sustainability, shouldn’t we be having a global dialogue around the repositioning of factories close to where the raw materials are? These are some of the things we, as Africans, need to change,” he noted.
Technology and digitisation
Having lauded the continent’s effort toward catching up with evolving technology, he said educational systems must produce high-tech engineers who can occupy the top echelon of the space so that Africa can shift from being solely consumers.
“Almost every country is catching up as far as technology is concerned. Almost every country is building Fintechs. Five years ago, this was not the case. Almost all countries are ensuring digital identity to deal with the downside of technology. I think what is left is shifting our educational systems, such that we are not just consumers of technology but also can occupy the high-value chain of technology.
“The fight between the West and the East is one along the lines of technology like robotics and biotech, and whoever captures this high value of technology tomorrow becomes the global world power. Unfortunately, we have basic needs to meet in Africa, so it will take time for us to capture; but we should not let the issue of artificial intelligence and Fintech just bypass us,” he said.
He further added that digitisation must be seen beyond being just a sector, to being an enabler of every other sector within the economy.
During a panelist discussion on the topic ‘Doing Business Differently – Adding Value to What We Produce’, conversations hovered around what Africa needs to do to perform substantially in global value chains.
The panel collectively agreed that to achieve this, the continent must redefine business methods that transition its trade from one that concentrates on primary commodities and raw material exports to competitive, value-added goods that meet international standards.
This call underscores the need for ensuring African businesses produce with specified criteria for quality, design, service delivery and especially, appearance that meet international standards.