Africa, as well as the rest of the world, needs to understand how to cooperate with one another while competing at the same time.
“We live in a world that is characterised by competition and cooperation. Often we either believe we are all in competition with one another and there’s no need to cooperate, other times we feel we’re all for cooperation without any competition,” said Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) group executive for International Financing, Rieaz Moe Shaik.
“BRICS is about competing and cooperating at the same time. I have no doubt in my mind that whilst BRICS is an established group, individually we will be competing with one another, so to understand how to cooperate and how to compete is a very important thing.”
Shaik, who spoke at Infrastructure Africa 2014 on Monday, also believes that there is now a new advantage with which to compete around the globe.
“The new commodity is no longer capital and it’s no longer labour. The new commodity is people with ideas, innovative ideas which you can market,” he said.
“Unfortunately we’re going to live in a world in which the people with ideas will be the bigger winners and the rest will be the late comers, benefiting on the tail side.”
He explained that in the case of Africa, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and GDP growth has not yet improved the lives of people.
“Where is Africa in all of this? While there is a growing amount of FDI coming into Africa, and that is a wonderful thing, we don’t see any improvement in the wellbeing of the African people,” Shaik said.
“There’s GDP growth – the Africa rising story – but somehow we don’t seem to be having the same experience in terms of changing around the quality of life and we need to ask ourselves why.”
This disconnect could be due to a number of reasons including below-standard education or no education at all, limited economic opportunities for people and poor social and economic infrastructure.
Shaik stated that acquiring these technical skills is essential as infrastructure requires more than just the means to build something, and that regional integration is key to developing Africa.
“Infrastructure is not only getting the building, it’s about having the skills to maintain this building, having the skills to know how use this building to the maximum,” he explained.
“Things we need to get right is establish an effective regional institution, build the political consensus in the regions, get high-level buy in and trust amongst the political players, set priorities for regional infrastructure and be able to facilitate project preparation.”