The AfDB should address the lack of financing in Africa’s infrastructure development, according to Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.

Speaking at the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) annual meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, he made three proposals to boost the bank’s 2013-2022 strategy, including a focus on infrastructure, the provision of additional funds to support country-led agricultural investment plans, and increased support to SMEs and the private sector.

President Kikwete pointed out that improved infrastructure and regional integration were crucial to increase intra-African trade and shift exports from primary products to processed products.

“We need to increase connectivity in Africa to facilitate growth in intra-African trade. We need more roads, railways, ports, airports and ICT to open up and increase market access. These are heavy capital investment undertakings that many countries cannot afford on their own,” he said.

He added that Africa should look for market opportunities and sources of investment in the Brics countries, stressing the increase in trade already observed among them. For example, trade between Africa and China grew more than 10 times from 2000 to 2010, from US$10.59bn to US$126.9bn, he said.

The AfDB’s annual meeting was also an opportunity to encourage African countries to join credit rating agencies in order to get increased access to international financial markets.

Although it is a requirement for them to be well-rated in order to raise funds at competitive rates, only 23 out of 53 African countries are currently rated by agencies such as Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s or Fitch, according to the bank. Increasing that number would help the continent get more funding from international capital markets.

“The AfDB group works in synergy with these agencies, to encourage African countries to be rated, to enable them to maximise their ability to mobilise resources on capital markets,” said AfDB’s finance and risks management director, Kodeidja Diallo.

Panellists at the AfDB meeting have also pointed out that Africans need to develop the right policies to protect their interests instead of blaming foreign investors for capital flight.

Nkosana Moyo, former vice-president and chief operating officer of the AfDB, said: “We cannot depend on foreign investors to come in with everything. Investors always want to take an upper hand and we end up losing. Governments should concentrate on making the right policies to protect national and African interests, otherwise outsiders will go away with our wealth.”

Another panellist, Ali Mufunkuri, executive chair of Infotech Investment Group in Tanzania, added that African countries should take the upper hand in order to “harvest the rising commodity prices” in global trade.

Other participants regretted the fact that African resources, especially minerals, are exported to be refined elsewhere and then brought back for sale to the continent at high prices.

“We have to break this huge cycle and come up with innovative instruments to safeguard Africa’s interests if we are to eliminate poverty in this continent,” said Terence Sibiya, director and head of global markets sales at Standard Bank.