By Babajide Komolafe
World Trade Organisations, WTO, Director General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Rwandan President, Paul Kagame yesterday called on African leaders to show the political will and embrace increased cooperation to achieve the goals of the African Free Trade Continental Agreement, AfCFTA, which is necessary for the post pandemic development of the continent.
Speaking at the 3rd annual UBA Africa Day Conversation, alongside, World Health Organisation, Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; and International Finance Corporation, IFC, Managing Director, Makhtar Sop Diop; the two global leaders highlighted the importance of ensuring free movement of goods, services and people across the various African countries as a critical success factor for AfCFTA.
They however noted that this however requires political will on the part of African leaders who have the power to make it happen.
With the theme, ‘Bringing Africa to the World’, the event was moderated by the Group Chairman, UBA Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu with the four global leaders speaking on Africa’s development in the areas of the economy and finance, trade, health and the unity of the continent.
Speaking on measures to fastrack recovery and economic growth in the continent, Okonjo-Iweala called for additional fiscal stimulus, including provision of liquidity and credit to the private sector, economic diversification, and successful implementation of the AfCFTA.
She said “”In the short term, on the economic side is to see how we can get more fiscal stimulus into our economy.
“That is why it is important the whole discussion we are having on restructuring debt and giving African economy space, fiscal space to breathe so that they can invest, not only on the health side but also on the economy side, this is how we are going to recover.
“Now the good news is that all our Presidents, like President Kagame, have been pushing for issuance of SDR, the Special Drawing Right at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and 650 billion has now been agreed, Africa will get 34 billion but more may be allocated. We can use this to help implement more fiscal stimulus so that our economies can have the ability to recover.
“In the longer term or in the medium term, of course we know that we have to diversify our economy. We are too vulnerable to movement in commodity prices.
“And of course take advantage of the AfCFTA to specialise some countries in production, trade more with each other and also trade more with the outside”.
Making AfCFTA work
The WTO boss however stressed that for AfCFTA to work, there must be free movement of goods, people and services.
“If we want AfCFTA to work then we must make goods, services and people flow easily across the borders.
“We don’t really have a choice, if we want to change the tenor of growth in Africa, if we want to rely more on ourselves and less on the outside, if we want to export more to specialise more, to add value to our raw materials, we have to make the AfCFTA work. And the WTO is expectant and ready to support the continent to make this work
While affirming Okonjo-Iweal’s position, Rwanda President, Dr. Paul Kagame said what is needed is the political will on the part of African leaders to achieve easy movement of goods, services and people across the continent.
He said: “There is something that is lacking or should be there for things to work the way she was mentioning. Leaders have to make it work. Politics, we have to make it work. It is the political will because the movement of people, the logistic part of it , the digitalising the systems, that is the right way to go. But how does it happen?
“You know, we still have this big elephant in the room and that is the politics of it, we have to put at the forefront the kind of politics that will make these things happen. I think that is why we are stuck and may continue to be stuck for a long time. I am not sure how we will deal with this but, and I know it is a hard task. I am just sharing this as a sense of appreciation but also something that needs urgent attention.”
Kagame also highlighted the need for African leaders to put in place ‘good politics’ and adopt a sense of urgency as necessary steps to addressing the challenge of widespread conflict and insecurity across the continent.
“We must put in place good politics, first domestically, every nation,every country has many issues to deal with and then you have other issues to deal with across countries.
“So we can’t just switch off conflicts or crises unless we invest in addressing the root causes of these problems, and this is a hard task. It is a task that you don’t carry out or achieve in a fortnight but rather we need to really work the talk as well because we will meet every time whether it is in the AU summit or other sub-regional meetings.
“We must meet to address programmes but it keeps going around almost where we started from and we keep seeing more conflicts. So I think we need to put a sense of urgency in this”, he said.
In his presentation, WHO DG, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke on the need for African countries to build capacity for vaccine production, as a way of addressing the challenge of inequitable vaccine distribution as experienced with the COVID-19 vaccines.
Stressing that cooperation especially with the private sector and other countries is critical in this regard, he said, “Africa cannot rely solely on the import of vaccines from the rest of the world. We must build that capacity not only for covid 19 vaccines but for other vaccines and medical products. The cooperation of the private and public sector will be essential in this effort.
“I think the major thing for us in this pandemic is to agree on the importance of cooperation. But as we know countries can engage each other in confrontation and competition, for this pandemic you cannot choose competition and confrontation, the only option is cooperation because the pandemic is a common enemy. The cooperation starts from sharing what’s available to fight the common enemy everywhere.
“Then we have the immediate and long term, that is we have to increase the volume of vaccines we have and for that the manufacturing will be key. So we should use all the options we have to increase vaccine coverage in all countries.