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Former Canadian PM Calls for Improved Africa Infrastructure

U.S. President Barack Obama, (C), Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R), and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon (L) walk out of the Oval Office before a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, April 2, 2012.

This is Part Two of a six-part series on African Investment
Continue to Parts: 1 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien says African countries have the potential to attract massive foreign investment by significantly developing their infrastructure.

Mr. Chretien said improving access to natural resources could be a financial boost for the countries. He was a main speaker on the topic of maximizing growth Africa at the recently concluded New York Forum Africa, held in Gabon’s capital, Libreville. The group brings together international investors and African business leaders in an effort to foster partnerships..

“They have to develop the proper infrastructure to get access to the resources, and they need to develop infrastructure like education for example to train people in the type of jobs to develop the resources,” said Chretien.

“With 800 million people, they need to better develop communication between them so that they can specialize and produce some products that would be used within the continent. Most of the economies have to be created really on the continent for the people on the continent.”

Chretien also called for the improvement of Africa’s hospitals and universities, which he said will help stimulate job growth.

“The future of Africa is bright in my judgment.”

The forum attracted over 600 business, financial and political leaders across Africa. Organizers say it provided a unique platform for Africa’s entrepreneurs and rising business leaders to find ways of resolving problems while engaging with executives and investors from around the world.

Topics addressed during the three-day forum included finding the right business models, spurring innovation and entrepreneurship and improving security and governance.

Chretien said Africans could improve investment with enhanced cooperation in the area of trade and technological advancement.

He noted that some investors complain that Africa’s underdeveloped road network makes it difficult to cross borders and to go from one side of the continent to other.

The former Canadian prime minister said improved transport relies on inter-African coordination.

“Some time ago they tried to have a federation of Africa [and] perhaps the time has come to look at that. You know to have a central government to run some things that are common, like we have in Canada...You can have unity in diversity.”

Chretien called on African governments to remove what he described as destructive bureaucracies, which he said inhibit international investments. He also called for hard work, which he called the best solution to resolving challenges the continent faces.

He also emphasized the importance of keeping, and promoting, government workers based on education and performance, not personal connections or patronage.

“You need [administrative] stability. You don’t kick out everybody because you change the government. You need people to stay there because they are good at their jobs, whoever is the leader,” said Chretien.
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