Having already served as the minister of the economy and finance for nearly four years, and appointed in 2002 as Burkina Faso's ambassador to Washington as well as its representative to the IMF, Tertius Zongo clearly has the requisite experience to become the head of government. Now, as he explains to African Business, the new prime minister of Burkina Faso wants to leave his mark on his country's economy.
African Business: With a growth rate of 6% over the last 10 years there has been a decline in poverty. However, in rural as well as urban areas, the cost of living for much of the population remains a problem. How can government help?
Tertius Zongo: Speaking of poverty, it is extremely important to define what sort of poverty we are referring to. We are aware that to bring our population out of poverty, we have to generate more wealth. Poverty is more pronounced in the rural areas and most of the population is involved in agricultural activity. How can we improve their living conditions as well as their standard of living? How can we empower them?
I believe the solution is to look at more productive cultivation methods as well as improving the education system. In our countries, years spent in education as well as professional training can make a significant contribution to economic growth. We must ensure that we empower the less wealthy in society and get them involved in the country's progress.
AB: You dream of making Ouagadougou the hub of western Africa. With what assets?
TZ: The equation is simple. We must make our landlocked situation an asset, make it a true opportunity! No other country in West Africa has the strategic position of Ouagadougou. To go to Mali, Cote d'Ivoire or Senegal from Togo, Benin, Ghana or Nigeria, you must go via Ouagadougou. Even countries with a coastline are involved with Ouagadougou in trade. We are a transit hub. This is our main asset. Once this idea has been established, it is important to transform this opportunity into something tangible.
It is obvious that we cannot attract investors unless we offer them good opportunities. The 'hub status' should allow us to position our country as a service economy. But how can we best develop this aspect of our economy?
This is one of the reasons we are considering moving our airport further from the centre of town, to perhaps develop a new industrial zone in its proximity. We are also following a policy of building all-weather, hard topped roads. We...