Africa must be given time to industrialise

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies

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Pretoria – Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says Africa should be given space to industrialise.

Speaking at the 4th China Roundtable in Nairobi, Kenya, Minister Davies said under colonialism, African countries were drawn into the world economy as producers and exporters of primary products, mineral and agricultural commodities.

The Minister said that era also disadvantaged the Africa as her countries were importers of finished goods from former colonisers’ countries.

“The value chains have not benefited Africa. Africa needs assistance so that it can weather the next wave of the financial crisis. We must create regional value chains. We must create space to slow down the importation of finished goods and we must be given space as a continent to industrialise,” said Minister Davies.

The roundtable, sponsored by the Chinese government, is being hosted by the Kenyan government. It is organised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Secretariat ahead of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also addressed the roundtable, which is casting the spotlight on Africa’s perspectives on the future of the trading system.

President Kenyatta said the WTO must be supported to enable it to fulfil its mandate effectively. He said the 4th China Roundtable and the 10th Ministerial Conference provide an opportunity to reaffirm the centrality of the WTO in international cooperation.

President Kenyatta said Africa has prioritised industrialisation and deepening domestic economies, and is focusing on legal, institutional and structural reforms.

“If we are to industrialise, tariff escalation and peak tariffs should be eliminated. African economies producing competitively should not be halted with defensive trade remedies. Standards should not be the next frontier of protectionism,” said President Kenyatta.

Meanwhile, Minister Davies urged Ministers responsible for Trade of the ACP [African, Caribbean and Pacific] Group of States to resist the attempt of ditching the Doha Development Round, as it will have negative implications for developing countries.

The ACP Group States Ministers of Trade also came up in support of the mandate of the Doha Round. The Ministers stressed the necessity for a clear commitment in Nairobi to conclude all unresolved issues in the Doha Developmental Round.

They urged all members to show the same political will to achieve consensus at the WTO Ministerial Conference as they did with the Bali Ministerial Conference.

The membership of the World Trade Organisation is divided over the Doha Development Round.

Most of the membership, including South Africa, say that the mandate of the Doha Round remains valid.

“The principles as well as the work issues under the Doha Development Agenda are important and this agenda has to be completed before anything else can be picked up.

“On the other hand, there are a few members who are of the view that the Doha Round is effectively dead and the work programme can address the outstanding issues but not within the current framework and the mandate of Doha,” said Minister Davies.

The Doha Round is the latest round of trade negotiations among the WTO membership. Its aim is to achieve major reform of the international trading system through the introduction of lower trade barriers and revised trade rules.

The work programme covers about 20 areas of trade.

The Round is also known semi-officially as the Doha Development Agenda as its fundamental objective is to improve the trading prospects of developing countries.