Last Tuesday evening we co-hosted an event with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy looking at how we can make trade work for Africa.  Speakers – from Oxfam, Standard Chartered and the Institute for Development Studies – highlighted the huge importance of private sector growth, regional integration and trade facilitation in helping the poorest countries leave poverty behind.

Razia Khan (Head of Research, Africa – Standard Chartered) spoke about how the African economy has in the past been highly up and down and correlated with movement in the commodity cycle in turn generated by world activity, however in this recession that has not been the case.  There has been growth coming from other economic activities beyond commodities, although this may have been influenced by the buoyancy of the Chinese economy which has contributed to the input of commodities.  Razia addressed the drivers available to African governments in terms of growth and encouraged more private sector growth.

On the issue of South-South and intra-African trade, Dr Xavier Cirera (Institute of Development Studies – Sussex University) discussed the failure of Doha and the need for Least Developed Countries to get access to emerging markets.  When the world’s poorest countries trade with the European Union and China, it is commodity based, whereas when they trade among themselves, it is in manufacturing – far more sophisticated.  Too much time is spent on negotiation and too little spent on implementation.  In terms of domestic policies, it is tariff revenue that is the issue; most Least Developed Countries are exempt from tariff reduction yet many barriers still remain.  In the coming years, we may have very high food prices so it is important that we work to expand agricultural production.

Our final speaker, Ruth Kelly (Economic Policy Advisor – Oxfam), looked at potential for making aid for trade and trade facilitation better.  One key problem with trade policy is that it is characterised by repeated stalemates, with the same issues always cropping up.  There is a widespread negativity around Doha but a more positive outlook on trade facilitation.  We need to be looking at domestic and regional supply and demand – who are they, what do they buy and what do they sell?  Ruth believes that not enough focus has been put on long-term human capital.

For details of our next event taking place in February 2012 please contactannabel@tradeoutofpoverty.org.

Summary

Last Tuesday evening Trade Out of Poverty co-hosted an event with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy looking at how we can make trade work for Africa. Speakers – from Oxfam, Standard Chartered and the Institute for Development Studies – highlighted the huge importance of private sector growth, regional integration and trade facilitation in helping the poorest countries leave poverty behind.

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