Boosting intra-Africa trade should go beyond financial investments to political will.
The Rwandan President Paul Kagame said that as countries focus on mobilising funds to make investments in trade promotion, they should also move to address bottlenecks brought about by lack of political will.
President Kagame was speaking at the closing of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) Annual General Meeting 2017 at the Kigali Convention Centre on Saturday.
He cited the example of regions across the continent where levels of trade have significantly gone up not by financial investments but largely due to removal of trade barriers.
“Trade depends on more than finance, many trade facilitation efforts require little more than political will. We have examples in some regions where removal of barriers to trade has greatly improved the business environment. This needs to be shared widely across the continent so that Africans can reap the full benefits of integration,” he said.
President Kagame said that the continent was not short of knowledge or information on what can be done to improve the levels of trade in the continent.
Going beyond the current level of intra-Africa trade estimated at around 15 per cent, the President said that was dependent on building on the knowledge and information to tackle existing bottlenecks.
Among the solutions that require less of financial investments and more of political will is easing free movement of Africans across the continent.
President Kagame said that this was partly the reason the African Union was implementing reforms which would see multi-lateral lenders like Afrieximbank more impactful.
Part of the reasons to urgently develop trade in Africa is to make the continent become more resilient to global shocks and increasing protectionism.
“Africa needs to be more resilient to global shocks and increasing protectionism. Too often we find ourselves at a disadvantage when negotiating trade with other parts of the world,” he stressed.
The President called on African countries to make the most of continental bodies such as Afrieximbank which extend support in favourable terms.
Needs of Africa
“I acknowledge the significance of a primarily African-owned institution, serving the needs of Africans….Governments and the private sector should make the most of possibilities offered by Afreximbank,” he said.
President Kagame also spoke at a session dubbed “Path to a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) for Africa” facilitated by television talk show host Riz Khan.
Importance of self-evaluation
During the session, the president noted the importance of self-evaluation as the continent moved on in the implementation of initiatives to promote intra-Africa trade.
At the meeting, Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete was elected the new Chairman of the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders. His new responsibility will see him oversee the follow up of the shareholder’s implementation strategies and plans.
The chairperson and president of Afreximbank, Dr Benedict Oramah said that the lender is keen to continue being a partner in Rwanda’s development by working with the government and private sector partners.
Among the strategies that could benefit Rwanda is the intra-Africa trade strategy which aims to boost trade through increased production, connecting markets and better distribution patterns.
From the four day Annual General Meeting, it emerged that Rwanda’s trade development efforts are set to receive a $500 million (about Rwf420 billion) boost from the bank.
Dr Oramah said that they were looking at funding a number of initiatives in the country to promote trade.
Among the areas of interest include development of industrial parks, RwandAir expansion, and Bugesera International Airport construction.
The NewTimes/Mercy Chukwudiebere