Sharing for development: Knowledge exchanges between East Asia and Africa

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Agriculture facilities including greenhouses The agribusiness sector is one example of increasing opportunities for trade and investment between East Asia and Africa

What do the African company Flutterwave and the Asian company DANA have in common?  What can African countries learn from the development journeys of the Four Asian Tigers?  Are there strategic investment opportunities for East Asian agri-business firms wanting to expand into growing African markets or for African agribusiness firms wanting to expand into East Asian markets? Can both regions benefit from any realignments in Global Value Chains (GVCs)?

These questions and others will be explored by a recently launched ‘East Asia – Africa Policy Dialogue’ which aims to serve as a platform for Asian and African policymakers, private sector representatives, and development stakeholders to share experiences, perspectives, ideas, and lessons on how to enhance economic ties between both regions – and how to promote economic recovery and development progress in a post-COVID19 era.

What drove the setting-up of this knowledge-sharing platform between these two specific regions of the world? First off, such collaboration stretches back many decades and builds on a long tradition of East Asia – Africa cooperation.  In 1955, Indonesia hosted the prominent Bandung Conference bringing together the two regions and leading to the emergence of various joint initiatives in the succeeding decades. This spirit of collaboration was renewed through the launch of the ‘New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership’ in 2005 and the organization of the first-ever Africa-ASEAN Business Expo’ in Johannesburg in 2017.

The development journeys and trajectories of both regions, too, carry significant appeal for each other’s policymakers and private sector actors.  East Asia has been the fastest-growing region in the world for decades and much of its development has been driven by manufacturing exports and innovation-led growth . Its economies have also been some of the fastest to rebound from the global pandemic and some of them may undergo upward income transitions in the next few years.

African countries have traditionally witnessed slower rates of economic growth and grappled with persistent challenges related to fragility and conflict – yet many states on the continent are now modernizing at a faster pace and undergoing significant economic change. There is a burgeoning middle-class across Africa that is fueling greater economic activity and larger investments in e-commerce and innovation.   Plus, the African continent now offers more scalable market opportunities as its countries have just signed the new ‘African Continental Free Trade Agreement’ in January 2021 and its population exceeds 1.2 billion people.

Much of the impetus for this South-South knowledge-sharing initiative flows from the mandate of the World Bank Group’s Hub for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Finance in Malaysia – which has been taking a leading role in organizing the events of the East Asia – Africa Policy Dialogue.  This knowledge and Research Hub in Kuala Lumpur aims to share Malaysia’s development experiences and policy innovations with other countries; producing original economic research with global impact and supporting Malaysia’s own development priorities.

This initiative kicked off in January 2021 with a high-level webinar involving three World Bank Vice Presidents – East Asia and the Pacific’s Victoria Kwakwa, Eastern and Southern Africa’s Hafez Ghanem, and Western and Central Africa’s Ousmane Diagana –several Ministers and leading private sector representatives from both regions. The participants shared their perspectives on public and private sector collaboration and included the Malaysian Minister of Communications and Multimedia, the Secretary-General of the Presidency in Cote d’Ivoire, a Co-Founder of the Africa- South East Asia Chamber of Commerce, and the CEO of the Dangote Foundation in Africa.

Over the coming few months, three online events will be organized as part of this initiative: one approaching webinar on April 26 looks at the opportunities and challenges of expanding investment flows between East Asia and Africa in the agri-business sector. Subsequent webinars will cover other topics including the benefit of digitalization, e-commerce, trade, and participation in GVCs.

Join us in our upcoming knowledge-sharing events bringing together East Asian and African changemakers. The policy dialogue and sharing of development perspectives facilitated by this platform aim to help deepen policy collaboration and economic ties between two exciting regions in the world!

RSVP for the Webinar on Trade and Investment in Agribusiness: Opportunities in East Asia & Africa: April 26, 2021 8:00 pm Kuala Lumpur / 8:00 am Washington DC / 12:00 pm Dakar.



Firas Raad

Country Manager for Malaysia, East Asia and Pacific

Souleymane Coulibaly

Program Leader and Lead Economist for Central Africa

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