Olusegun Obasanjo was the keynote speaker at the Africa Investor CEO Institutional Investment Summit, attended by African leaders, senior United Nations officials and leaders in the private sector. He told the Summit that Africa could not make collective progress unless "we have collective and central means of addressing most of the issues that affect us as Africans''.
It is a great pleasure and great honour to be in the midst of CEOs of companies and institutions that do business in Africa or are looking forward to doing business in Africa.
What makes our talk on regional integration in Africa very important is the fact that from historical background; Africa is politically fragmented and that fragmentation remains till today. So for those who want to deal with Africa; a population of almost 1 billion, the more they can deal with Africa as an entity; in terms of rules of engagement, in terms of policies, in terms of regulations and laws, the easier it will be for them rather than dealing with 55 entities, 55 sets of policies, 55 currencies, 55 custom procedures, 55 monetary and fiscal exchanges.
Just as we have no world government and yet we are trying to pursue world governance without much success, so can we not have continental governance without continental government. I am of course mindful of the fact that national interest; hence national government dominate the international horizon, but at the same time, we do know that in many areas particularly in Africa we cannot make collective progress unless we have collective and central means of addressing most of the issues that affect us variously as Africans. Issues of poverty, issues of health, issues of trade, issues of economy, issues of human development, issues of security, issues of corruption, issues of food security, issues of transport and infrastructure and issues of an inadequate voice and representation on the global arena.
Integration therefore; in such a way that collective and common policies, legislations and regulations can be brought to bear on those issues is an imperative necessity for each of our countries and Africa as a whole.
It will make us to be complimentary, competitive and mutually supportive of ourselves and to present a common front in a fiercely competing and conflicting world. What I am saying in essence is that for us as Africans we need integration to be able to match ourselves with the rest of the world in almost all human endeavours. We must cease to be just an appendice in world affairs.
But more importantly; for you who are doing business in Africa and want to do business in Africa; the more you can approach Africa as an integrated, united, single entity in economic terms; the easier it is and will be for you to conduct your business. It may even enhance your investment, ease your entry into the African market and enhance your return on your investment. Integration will be an encouragement for you. This is in spite of the fact that the return of investment in Africa is one of the highest in the world. Integration will even heighten such returns.
While political integration and union government in Africa will take some time to come by, economic integration in the area on monetary policy, in the area of fiscal policy, in the area of custom union, in the area of currency harmonization, in the area of tax legislation, in the area of business registration, rules and ethics, in the area of infrastructural harmonization in terms of transport, energy and communication will make movement of goods, money and people faster and easier within Africa. It will also help intra-African trade and transaction which any investor in Africa will need.
Dealing with issues of crime, disease and corruption will also be easier because these are issues that do not respect borders and if they are to be curbed, action in one country must complement, reflect and be in tandem with other African countries. There should be no hiding place or safe haven for criminals or corrupt private and public officials in one country to avoid punishment for what they have done in other countries.
As a modest farmer, thereby a small agri-businessman in Africa; I can say to you categorically: Africa is waiting and crying for investment and its doors are open to welcome you. Let me also add; many African countries are also responsive to positive advice from the private sector on what the private sector needs to do business in Africa and to move the African economy forward into the mainstream of global economy.
Thank you for listening