Cairo, Feb 20 (IANS) Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday opened the Africa 2016 Forum at the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh to enhance economic and trade cooperation among African states.
Held under the African Union Commission and organised by Egypt in cooperation with the Comesa, Regional Investment Agency, the first session of the two-day conference saw some 1,500 participants including the presidents of Sudan, Nigeria, Togo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Ethiopian prime minister, Xinhua reported.
“Achieving development, the major challenge that we all face, requires us to develop the mechanisms of joint African action and follow the model of regional integration,” said Sisi.
He stressed the need for carrying out huge regional African projects in various fields including infrastructure.
“We need to enhance the competitiveness of our national markets to increase their ability to attract investments and infiltrate into the international markets, bearing in mind the growing challenges facing the world economy,” Sisi continued.
He noted that Egypt seeks over the coming five years to double its trade with African states that currently stands at $5 billion, adding that the recent expansion of Egypt’s Suez Canal marked “the first step” in a massive project to boost African trade with the international markets.
Sisi also underlined the need to develop Africa’s human potentials and pay the required attention to the African youths, stressing the future of the continent depends on them.
Suffering economic problems due to security issues that led to declining investment and tourism, Egypt received in early January $500 million as the first batch of a $1.5 billion loan from the African Development Bank (AFDB).
Addressing the Forum, entitled “Africa 2016: Business for Africa, Egypt and the World,” AFDB President Akinwumi Adesina highlighted the need for removing cross-Africa barriers to achieve sustainable development in the continent.
He also urged all African leaders to work together on eliminating all trade and business obstacles and opening a unified market that would guarantee growth and prosperity for all African states.
For his part, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said in a discussion after the opening ceremony that Africa suffers improper infrastructure for inter-communication and low industrialisation of its raw material.
He said that the 2008 global economic crisis and the recent law oil prices greatly affected the economic growth in Africa, which shows that Africa is affected by what happens around the world.
“We can avoid this by manufacturing our raw material and doubling our products, encourage inter-African trade as Africa has a huge market and if we make best use of this advantage it will bring great benefits to the African states,” Bashir said.
The investment ministers of Egypt and Kenya signed an agreement to extend a railway line to boost trade between the two countries.