BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Africa ponders making trade work
Cotton picker
Africa can do much to help itself, ministers feel
Finance and economy ministers from around Africa are meeting this week in Kampala to discuss how to improve the continent's trade performance.

The conference, under the auspices of the United Nations' Economic Commission for Africa, aims to address a mismatch in regional trade policy.

Africa, ministers fear, is falling ever further behind the rest of the world in terms of trade growth.

In 1980, African exports were 6.3% of the world total; now its share is 2.5%.

Basic difficulties

Identifying poor trade performance as a key cause of African poverty is nothing new.

Economists have long pointed to its reliance on basic exports - commodities and raw materials rather than high-value manufactures - as a serious weakness.

Poorest continent:
How Africa compares with the rest of the world

Nor is the continent short of high-profile meetings of senior policy-makers: the Kampala conference comes just a week after a summit of the Southern African Development Community, for example.

But the Kampala meeting is significant in throwing the initiative on Africa to reform itself, a growing trend among African policy makers.

Often, they have blamed international trade issues - and in particular, the perceived protectionism of the rich world - for their internal problems.

Help yourselves

Many economists argue that Africa is unfairly excluded from global markets, and has especial difficulty in exporting farm products to Europe and the US.

But they also point to many areas where the continent's governments could initiate reform.

"Even if market access issues are resolved, the continent may not be in a position to fully exploit the opportunities because of serious domestic supply-side constraints," a pre-conference discussion document argued.

"Providing trade financing, building trade capacity, improving trade facilitation, and addressing negative impact of trade liberalisation are crucial in addressing these constraints.

"What is required now is to place trade issues at the centre of development strategies."

The Kampala conference begins on 18 May with experts' meetings, followed by the full ministerial get-together on 21-22 May.

The meeting then carries on over the weekend to merge into the annual meetings of the African Development Bank on 24-26 May.

Africa Commission's uphill task
04 May 04  |  Business
Africa wants bigger say at IMF
25 Apr 04  |  Business
African leaders push development
12 Feb 04  |  Africa
Poor nations want IMF reforms
23 Sep 03  |  Business
Africa's ambitious reform agenda
21 Feb 03  |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific