We are celebrating Africa Day today. The African Union has chosen ‘Building and Sustaining Peace through Sports’ as the theme for 2010. With the final countdown to the Soccer World Cup, the first African-based Soccer World Cup, this seems appropriate. Of course there are many other important issues to focus on, on this Day. From tralac’s perspective there are many trade-related issues that deserve attention too.
Africa’s role in global trade, and related issues such as commodity prices, international trade governance, and the development of competitive industries and services providers by addressing key supply-side constraints are important issues for Africa’s development. The challenges of small markets and small countries require that we focus not only on access to international markets to provide opportunities for African businesses, but also on our own African integration agenda. Preoccupation with ambitious targets for regional integration, and specifically the aim to become customs unions may not contribute very much to the development of a business environment that can support the growth of vibrant businesses on the continent.
Assessing the real constraints on competitiveness and linking our integration agenda to policy and practice to address these constraints, may assist to make our integration efforts relevant to upping Africa’s game in international markets. The traditional focus on a ‘trade in goods’ agenda, while for some countries and some products, still important is not enough. Focusing, for example, on regional cooperation in the development of infrastructure, combined with regulatory reform at national levels, as well as cooperation or harmonization at regional levels may assist contribute not only to market development on the African Continent, but also provide a platform for businesses to access cheaper, better quality services inputs (transport, communications, financial services and more) to assist all businesses to enhance productivity and efficiency.
Africa has an abundance of resources and entrepreneurs. We need national policies that facilitate the development of competitive businesses. These policies must be implemented, monitored and evaluated, and revised if necessary. The commitments member states make at regional level as part of various regional integration agendas, are very important for competitiveness too.
Implementation, monitoring, evaluation, revision if necessary and sanctions for non-compliance are as important at the regional level as they are at national level.
Tuesday, 25 May 2010