Africa demands fairer, transparent global trading system
Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
AFRICAN private sector leaders have called for a more transparent and fairer global trading system that supports growth of developing economies.
While optimistic about the future outlook, economic experts from the continent feel that gaps in international trade governance are undermining developing nations, Africa in particular.
According to a survey of 200 chief executive officers (CEO)s) that was commissioned by the Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee (PAFRAC), and conducted by the African Business magazine in partnership with the Afreximbank, private sector leaders are concerned about the seemingly biased global trade operational environment. PAFRAC shared the survey outcome in a recent press statement.
It noted that in the survey, African CEOs have explicitly called for a fairer system governing global trade that will support developing countries. About 37 percent of the CEOs surveyed felt that the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as it stands, was ineffective with 65 percent suggesting that the global trading system was unfair to Africa.
The CEOs were, however, optimistic about the future outlook with 50 percent of them convinced that global trade will increase over the next 12 months. Despite economic challenges facing Africa, a majority of survey participants actually believe that intra-Africa trade will increase over the next 12 months, said PAFRAC.
The survey was done in view of the next phase of on-going consultations to select the WTO next director general. Three of the eight candidates are African: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Kenya’s Amina Mohamed and Egypt’s Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh.
According to PAFRAC, the survey covered a number of areas, which revealed a general consensus that the current global trading rules penalise the African continent and its private sector. While appreciating the normative role of the WTO in facilitating global trade, most participants felt the multilateral body was not effective in fulfilling this mandate. Infrastructure, logistics and human capital were cited as two major impediments to growth in Africa with the skewed international trade regime coming in as another key constraint.
President of Afreximbank, Professor Benedict Oramah, was quoted as saying that the growth of the African private sector in recent years deserves global attention and support.
“The WTO and its new leadership will need to recognise the imperative of African integration and put development at the centre of any trade agenda,” he said.
Chair of PAFTRAC, Pat Utomi, stressed that unless reform was forthcoming the current global Covid-19 crisis may penalise the African private sector even further.
“We have seen during this pandemic companies in the industrialised world have received massive bailouts, tax incentives, not to mention government contracts and fiscal stimuli.
“Companies in Africa were not so fortunate and will have to deal with a world where trade will be depressed because of the post-Covid-19 environment. As such, a fairer global trade environment and trading system is more urgent today than ever,” he said.
PAFTRAC is an advocacy platform that brings together the African private sector and African policymakers to support extra and intra-African trade, investment and pan-African enterprise.