By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek - Rwandan president and Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, Paul Kagame, has hailed the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region as a source of inspiration.
Kagame said, as a continent, Africa is also on the move but it can only really go forward if all the regions work together.
Speaking at the 38th SADC Summit in Windhoek last week, Kagame said SADC’s industrialisation strategy clearly recognises that free trade facilitates export diversification, competitiveness and inclusive growth. He said this was in line with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“This region has been a source of inspiration, for Africa as a whole. We must continue to build on that tradition, and expand it beyond SADC, across the continent.”
In the years ahead, Kagame, says the AfCFTA and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, will significantly increase the level of trade among African nations, while strengthening the continent’s negotiating position, globally.
Africa, as an economic bloc, still occupies a very low position in the global classification, with the continent only receiving 3% of foreign direct investment despite accounting for 14% of the global population. According to an African Union Commission report, in terms of global goods trade, the continent accounts for only 1.8% of imports and 3.6% of exports. These rates are even lower in the services sector with only 1.7% and 1.8% of imports and exports, respectively.
Africa is also lagging behind when it comes to intra-trade compared to other continents. Intra-African trade stands at around 12% compared to 60%, 40%, 30% intra-regional trade that has been achieved by Europe, North America and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), respectively.
The report states that even if allowance is made for Africa’s unrecorded informal cross-border trade, the total level of intra-African trade is not likely to be more than 20%, which is still lower than that of other major regions of the world.
The African Union recognises eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which consist primarily of trade blocs and, in some cases, involve some political cooperation. All these communities form the 'pillars' of the African Economic Community. The RECs are moving towards implementing the Abuja Treaty with different rhythms.
Today, Kagame says more than ever, collaboration among African countries is not a choice, it is an imperative, in real terms.
“It is precisely because we recognise the necessity and advantage, of going beyond the borders of our respective countries that we have joined forces through Regional Economic Communities, and the African Union.”
He added that infrastructure development, as well as the free movement of persons, are key to translating the continent’s aspirations, into practical results for African citizens.
“Equally, the long-term prospects or prosperity and security of Africa, depend on creating the conditions and environment that enable our young people, to achieve their full potential, right here at home. We have the ability to do more for our countries individually, but even better, together,” he said.