Friday, 19 October 2007

Doing business in Africa: the path to Africa’s prosperity

Every economy around the world has been lifted through the energy of its entrepreneurs. Every family around the world sees getting a job or growing their business as the single most important route to a better life. This is no different in Africa.

That is why I was delighted to be involved with last week’s European launch of the Doing Business Report 2008 - an annual survey of life for enterprises around the world, produced by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank.

And there is good news from Africa. Ghana and Kenya both rank among the top 10 reformers worldwide, and Mauritius tops the rankings in Africa on the ease of doing business. The Finance Ministers from Ghana and Kenya, and the Finance Secretary from Mauritius, received World Bank awards at the London event that was hosted by Unilever, Business Action for Africa, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and the UK's Department for International Development.

According to the report, Mauritius ranks eighth globally for ease of starting a business, South Africa is in the top ten for strength of investor protections, and Botswana ranks 14th on ease of paying taxes. If a country were to copy the best practices from across the Sub-Saharan region, it would rank eighth on the ease of doing business - ahead of Japan, Germany and France.

Helping entrepreneurs grow is dramatically more powerful and sustainable as a route to ending poverty, than aid alone. That is why the speech by DFID Minister, Baroness Shriti Vadera, was so refreshing:

“I am concerned that sometimes we lose sight of the simple fact that, without growth, sustainable human development is a largely theoretical proposition. We also sometimes lose sight of the fact that the purpose of aid is to no longer require it.”
This signals an important and welcome shift of emphasis, and better reflects what is needed to tackle the scourge of poverty across the African continent.

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