From All Africa
How to break the colonial legacy of exporting goods ‘overseas’ and raise the level of trade between African countries? This has been an issue the African Union (AU) has grappled with since it devoted its January 2012 summit to the issue of c’. The annual Economic Development in Africa report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) launched in Ethiopia last Friday, 11 July 2013, gives interesting answers to some of the questions African governments and the AU have been asking.
African governments are increasingly aware that socio-economic development is an essential pillar of securing a peaceful and stable continent. Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi often spoke about the pursuit of greater cooperation among African countries in this regard. During last year’s debate at the AU summit in Addis Ababa, he reprimanded his peers for being too short sighted. One couldn’t simply scrap tariffs and speed up bureaucracy at border posts to ensure intra-African trade, he believed. If every country in East Africa produced ‘tea and coffee’ why would they export to one another, he asked. Zenawi and a number of other heads of state also complained at that debate that the AU’s plans for creating a continental free trade area in 2017 was, at best, unrealistic.
Intra-African trade – which is linked to greater regional cooperation and stability – has become quite a buzz word in Africa since it was pointed out that only 11% of Africa’s trade is within the continent, compared to Asia, where 50% of total trade is between countries in the region. African governments have, over the last number of years, taken up the challenge and announced ambitious plans for mega continental infrastructure projects, development corridors and free trade areas – a continental integration seen as one of the essential drivers of African development.
Read more at AllAfrica.com.