Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - African countries should use the growing international demand for commodities and raw materials to boost trade among themselves and avert a looming crisis from the possible decline in trade with Europe, senior African Union (AU) officials said on Monday.
African Union Commission President Jean Ping told ambassadors attending the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) meeting in Addis Ababa, ahead of the forthcoming AU Summit in the Ethiopia capital, that intra-Africa trade would help lessen the pain of lost trade with Europe.
“Trade has been with the outside world and depends on our raw materials. We should expand trade with each other and boost Intra-African Trade,” Ping said.
This year's Summit of the African leaders is dedicated to discussions on ways to boost trade within Africa.
Ping spoke about a three-point strategy, calling on leaders of Africa to take charge of their economic policies, attract foreign investments and seek funds set aside for aid-for-trade initiatives to boost continental trade and reduce foreign aid.
Economists from the AU’s Economic Affairs Department say most African economies maintain an upward growth trend of 5.6% from 2000 to 2008, before economic growth tumbled to 2.5% in 2009 due to the global economic crisis that hit Europe and the United States.
Ping said Africa has at least seven of the world’s best performing economies which maintained growth upwards of 7-11%, at a time when the other countries of the world posted negative growth rates.
“This news is encouraging. We are on an upward trend. The boom in the raw materials and the reduction of conflicts is positive. But the global trends have called our progress to question,” the AU Commission chief said.
He urged African leaders to take charge of their countries economic policies and concentrate on expanding foreign direct investments into their countries.
“Africa has to assert itself and make sure that we address the challenges facing us based on our determination and will,” Ping said.
Speaking separately, AU's Economic Affairs Commissioner Maxwell Mkwezalamba said despite a huge drop in Africa’s growth rates due to the financial and economic crisis earlier, most economies weathered the storm to post a combined growth of 5.2% in 2011.
However, growth in 2012 would have to be revised downwards.
“Trade performance is to be affected due to the reduction of commodity prices,” Mkwezalamba said.
Africa’s trade income with the rest of the world declined from US$1 billion to US$800 million in 2009, due to the economic crises that affected most of Europe.
Dr. Hesphina Rukato, who is running as a candidate for the post of the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, said funds that escaped from Africa as a result of the under-pricing of the commodities and minerals were much more than foreign aid received by the rest of the continent.
“We have to practice the culture of self-reliance and reduce external influence on our decision-making as a continent,” the Zimbabwean national told PANA in an exclusive interview.
She said African countries must avoid needless competition with each other and focus on building trade links among themselves so that the continent can challenge other emerging economies.
“We contradict the AU ideals as individual states. We need to form a cohesive Union with each other before we can compete with the others,” she said.
-0- PANA AO/SEG 23Jan2012