Africa must accelerate integration to promote trade and industrialization

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African countries should accelerate integration to promote trade and industrialization by changing mindsets, participants at a meeting on trade said on Tuesday, May 20 in Kigali.

Participants at the African Development Bank Group’s Annual Meetings session on “Facilitating Africa’s Trade” agreed that changing mindsets would enhance integration, create economies of scale and promote industrialization that Africa direly requires to become an effective actor in global trade.

Noting that Africa cannot prosper with 54 fragmented markets, the conference attended by Ministers of Trade, representatives of international organisations, business leaders, researchers and representatives of civil society across the world, said that it was time to “just do it” (integration).

Inter-African trade is said to be rising slowly to around 11% in 2013 while Africa’s trade with the rest of the world is below 3%.

Some participants suggested the banning export of unprocessed primary commodities and raw materials, as well as allow free movement of persons, goods and services across African borders in order to encourage production, jobs creation and trade.

The conference analyzed global and regional trends in trade facilitation and drew lessons to better inform future interventions in the light of the potential impacts of the WTO’s ongoing Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Rwanda’s Commerce and Industry Minister, Francois Kanimba, said that harmonisation of government policies and well as the political will to implement such policies were crucial to the realization of Africa’s integration agenda.

For her part, the Executive Director of International Trade Center (ITC), Arancha Gonzalez, said Africa needed to invest in productive capacity, educational skills acquisition, leverage competitiveness among the SMEs and promote market linkages were inevitable facilitators to African trade.

On the role of financial institutions in promoting trade facilitation, the President of African Export-Import Bank, Jean Louis Ekra, urged African governments to exploit the fast changes taking place in the African banking system to allow financial flows to support business transactions. He also urged greater cooperation among the commercial banks on trade related issues.

Technical skills education and the full involvement of the private sector were advertised as potential game changers in Africa’s quest for integration, large scale production and full participation on global trade.

Other key participants at the conference included Frederick Agah Yonov of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Richard Sezibera of the East African Community, and Johny Smith of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG).