Aid for Trade Conference Ends
African Countries told to Put Trade on the Front Burner
Tunis, 2 October 2007 – Delegates at a two-day conference on Mobilizing Aid for Trade: Focus on Africa, concluded deliberations in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesday with a call on African countries to put trade and related issues on the front burner of their national development plans.
Addressing more than 300 finance and trade ministers, senior donor representatives, regional institutions and key private sector actors, the African Development Bank Group President, Donald Kaberuka, said African countries could participate in global trade if they considered it a top priority in their national development plans.
"We have reached a stage where Africa is no longer totally dependent on aid and can become a player in global trade under a level playing field and if it builds adequate trading capacity," he said.
Going forward, he said that current generations of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers one of the tools International Financial Institutions (IFIs) use in development support to countries, were not in sync with critical trade issues and private sector development. In the same way, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the IFIs go their separate ways giving rise to a situation whereby development funds are raised vertically and spent horizontally.
"Regional integration is also about market and export diversity of goods and services", Mr. Kaberuka said, adding that the African Development Fund, the concessional window of the AfDB Group would increase its support to regional integration by 5% to 20 percent.
WTO Director-General, Pascal Lamy expressed a similar view, asserting that the importance of sustained national commitment to trade-led growth remain paramount. "The message we have heard again and again over the last day and a half is that trade must be a national priority, that leadership must come from the top, that there needs to be a strategy for getting there, and that this strategy needs to be shared across government and business and mainstreamed in all facets of national policy", he added.
Mr. Lamy listed critical priority areas in leveraging aid-for trade. These include good leadership at all levels, country determination and focus to be able to harness globalization, prioritization of attainable objectives, pooling and channeling resources to regional projects ranging from transport corridors and custom modernization, predictability and accessibility of funding as well as market a driven aid-for-trade agenda and an enhanced role for the private sector.
Another key participant, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Abdoulie Janneh, made a similar assertion in more general terms, saying that trade must be given priority of place in development. He said Africa must remain engaged and deepen the debate on aid-for-trade.
The conference, opened by Tanzania’s Vice President Ali Mohamed Shein, was organized under the auspices of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in cooperation with the World Bank. Other prominent participants were former Mozambican President, Joacquim Chissano and World Bank President for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili. Elizabeth Tankeu, Commissioner for Trade and Industry in the African Union, represented the President of the AU Commission, Mr. Alpha Omar Konare.
The conference was the last of three regional meetings held this year within the context of the "Aid for Trade" initiative launched in December 2005 at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong. The other two conferences were held from September 13-14 in Lima, Peru, for Latin America and in Manila, Philippines, for Asia and the Pacific region from September 19-20. The outcomes of the three regional meetings will be form part of the agenda of the WTO’s Aid for Trade Review session in Geneva on 20-21 November 2007.