The NEPAD Business Foundation has spawned a regional NEPAD SADC Business Hub aimed at encouraging African countries to trade with one another.
The emergence of trading partners such as India and China has resulted in Africa reviewing the way it currently operates and trades with these emerging super powers.
At present, business in Africa is conducted at a country level and in silos, which results in less optimal trade negotiations.
Taking into consideration the enormous potential of these emergent trading opportunities, it has necessitated the consolidation of Africa into regional trading hubs.
As such, the NEPAD Business Foundation (NBF) has taken the initiative through a breakfast meeting hosted at the recent World Economic Forum Africa Summit held in Cape Town in June 2008, to engage private sector leaders within the SADC region in a discussion to consolidate private sector into a regional NEPAD SADC Business Hub to participate in trading and operating on a regional level, to assist in delivering the objectives of NEPAD.
The breakfast was attended by business representatives from various SADC countries including Mozambique, Mauritius, Angola, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Namibia. All of whom were unanimous in their support of the importance and value of creating such a regional structure.
"This consolidation into regional trading hubs will allow SADC to stack up and engage in respectable trade relations and set terms of trade that are favourable for both sides and have a formidable partner that is good for reciprocity,’’ says Dr Reuel Khoza, chairman of the NEPAD Business Foundation in his address at the inaugural breakfast meeting.
Dr Khoza adds: "SADC has approximately 150-million to 200-million people residing within the various countries, versus South Africa with around 42-million people. The critical mass of SADC makes the region more viable and attractive to international trading partners because it provides economies of scale which makes it a lucrative market. The SADC region needs to act as a composite whole which will render SADC far more attractive and this consolidation will allow the region to become one solid force."
Currently there are problematic issues prevailing within SADC, such as ease of access to visas, customs and logistical barriers to name a few.
As such, it is important to create a sustainable bridge that attracts foreign direct investment (FDI) into the region with the consolidation of industry sectors. Economic policies need to encourage engagement and traverse boundaries, such as legal frameworks, regulatory policies, corporate governance issues need to be in place to enable a more conducive business environment.
It is envisioned that these issues will be addressed via the launch of the SADC Free Trade Agreement which has been formulated by the SADC Commission over the past few years.
It is with the above in mind that the NBF has taken the initiative to form a NEPAD SADC Business Hub to begin to address these challenges and to unite the region. The purpose of setting up a SADC Business Hub will be:
* To ensure the private sector’s role in the development of economic growth on the continent;
* Addressing the current challenges existing in conducting business within the SADC region;
* To promote trade and investment flow;
* To reinforce the role of the private sector for relevant trade and economic policies within SADC; and
* To strengthen integration within SADC.
The objectives of the NEPAD Hub will be to:
* Engage in dialogue with the various stakeholders in order to agree and establish a SADC Nepad Business Forum that may be led by the NEPAD Business Foundation in South Africa.
* To encourage mutually advantageous economic cooperation between the NEPAD Business Foundation- South Africa (NBF-SA) and other key stakeholders from the SADC private sector and respective chambers of commerce.
* To exchange and/or utilise the expansion of existing contacts as well as for the establishment of new relations between all stakeholders from all countries in the SADC region, leading to the promotion and the encouragement of trade and investment within the region.
* To establish a platform for information exchange on market research and possible trade and investment opportunities.
The CEO of NBF South Africa, Lynette Chen, encourages the SADC business leaders to use the NBF’s work structure as a template to develop a similar business focus on the NEPAD within each SADC country that will enhance and accelerate interfacing with other regional NEPAD business groups.
To demonstrate the importance in establishing co-operative, regional trading hubs within Africa, in March 2008, the NEPAD Business Foundation, South Africa and the NEPAD Business Group, Cote d’Ivoire (NBG-CI) signed a memorandum of mutual cooperation.
This agreement will further the economic and trade relations between the two organisations and represents a major step forward in the promotion of intra-Africa trade. Active participation by Africans under the banner of various NEPAD goals will require the promotion and enhancement of economic development of this continent by Africans for Africans.