November 11, 2010

G20: free-trade area for Africa proposed

A free trade area for Africa has emerged as an initiative at the G20 summit.Actively led and supported by President Jacob Zuma and British Prime Minister David Cameron, the idea implieds to create a massive free-trade zone across the African continent.

The suggestion is that Africa was so protectionist that individual countries prefered to trade with foreigners rather than with fellow Africans. Hence, by removing those barriers the continent could benefit from greater competition and cheaper prices. Supporters of the initiative in the government suggest that the idea has legs. Three existing trade blocs, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have already met and set up structures to take the idea forward. Comesa is home to 22 countries, the EAC five and SADC 15, although some are members of more than one trade bloc.

The current deliberations have their origin in a decision in 2008 to establish a tripartite free-trade agreement (FTA) including Comesa, the EAC and SADC. This will involve 26 countries, 568-million people and a combined GDP of $875-billion ($1540 per capita).

However, anti-poverty campaigners warned that a new approach focused on growth must not be used as an excuse to wriggle out of aid promises. "That's got to be the worry – that there's the appeal of the new, and that promises that are quite painful to deliver in the current climate are gone," said Adrian Lovett, global campaign director for Save the Children. Save the Children said that of $25bn in aid promised by the G8 countries in 2005, only $12bn has been delivered, and warned that development progress could be derailed by the economic crisis. (Mail & Guaridan / sadocc)

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