Participants at a meeting of the African Union’s Trade and Industry Commission yesterday proposed that the continent adopts policies to discourage the export of raw materials to the developed world.
During a media briefing at Munyonyo, Kampala, Ms Elizabeth Tankeu, the Trade and Industry Commissioner, said: “We have been exporting our raw materials to Europe since the colonial times when the Europeans came to Africa. They still come here for our resources but we have remained the poorest continent”.
“The European Union through its Economic Partnership Agreements wants Africa to trade with them at zero per cent tariffs. They say they want reciprocal trade. But we are saying Africa still needs a lot in place for reciprocation to begin. We’re telling them we are not going to continue exporting raw materials.”
The commissioner said Africa needs to develop its infrastructure, fair intra-trade and development policies and more inter-connectivity programmes, before it can trade fairly with the developed world.
The official said Africa is currently involved in a lot of international trade negotiations with a number of partners, and that there are new partners who are ready to trade with the continent fairly, “but there are others who do not want”.
“The African group is now working hand-in-hand to reverse the position of Africa as the poorest continent. We want the resources of Africa to be in position to develop Africa other than being taken to the developed world in their raw nature.
“Many of our raw materials go and return as finished products for us to buy, and that keeps us in poverty. Why can’t we develop our own resources by adding value from here?”
Commenting on the proposal, an official of the World Trade Organisation, attending the 10-day AU Summit in Kampala, said WTO’s role is to regulate global trade. “Ours is to ensure that the business community continues facilitating the global trade in a fair manner. That is all I can say for now,” the official who preferred anonymity said.
Ms Tankeu said EU chiefs were recently at the AU Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to negotiate opening up of new markets and standardisation of trade tariffs, and “we are saying we stand for development. Europe does not want restrictive agreements as regards development. We still have so much to negotiate about.”
The AU Commission said it would ask the presidents of member states to throw their political weight behind what could become a controversial proposal, especially in light of the upcoming Africa-Europe Summit.