African businesses can become far more competitive, but African governments and their international partners will need to improve access to finance, resist pressure to erect trade barriers, upgrade infrastructure, improve healthcare and educational systems, and strengthen institutions.
The conclusions, released at the launch of a major new report, The Africa competitiveness Report 2009, reflect research efforts of three institutions – the World Economic Forum, the African Development Bank and the World Bank.
Limited access to financial services remains a major obstacle for African enterprises, but underdeveloped infrastructure, limited healthcare and educational services, and poor institutional frameworks also make African countries less competitive in the global marketplace. The report also points to a number of success stories in the region that highlight steps countries can take to improve the business environment.
The report highlights two short-term and three longer term policy themes for improving the competitiveness of African economies.
The two short-term themes are:
1) Increasing access to finance through market-enabling policies.
2) Keeping markets open to trade.
The three longer term themes are:
1) Infrastructure remains one of the top constraints to businesses in Africa.
2) Inefficient basic education and healthcare systems constrain Africa’s productive potential.
3) More examples of good governance and strong and visionary leadership are needed