As the World Trade Organisation (WTO) gathers in Hong Kong for fresh negotiations between rich and poor countries, should Africa be hopeful?
Broadly, poor countries want rich nations to level the global playing field, which they see as prejudiced against them.
As the WTO is the only international organisation overseeing the rules of international trade, it is closely associated with both the ills and benefits of globalisation.
African countries hope that changes can be made to enable cotton, sugarcane, coffee, tea and rice farmers to enjoy decent profits.
What can Africa reasonably expect to gain from the WTO negotiations? How do you define fair trade rules? Is Africa ready to compete in a global market? What more can African governments do?
This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.
I still do not know exactly what Africa expects of the WTO. It seems to me we only attend because everybody else agrees we are poor and to hear what the rest of the world can do for us . What a pity. This level of apathy is just too dangerous. Well, cocoa may not be affected now, first it was sugar, then cotton. Very soon these rich countries will find substitute to each other products that we export and then we will find out we are not needed in these meetings.
Kweku Fokuo, Accra, Ghana
Even though we are all talking about fair trade and aid, do we actually all know what those terms mean? Do most Africans really know what a good functioning economy is ? Aid is all that is needed right now. Developed countries are not only looking for help but they are shouting for it. It is not right to say that Africa should go at it alone.
Ayse, Istanbul, Turkey
Africans should just increase trade among themselves and remove trade and travel barriers among it's people and forget about help from the West, and finally we should stop exporting raw materials and start selling finished products.
Saying that Africa stands to gain nothing from the WTO is the peak of ignorance! Several countries in the Far East have gained tremendous benefits from the decisions reached by the WTO. Recently, several African countries benefited from debt-forgiveness, and in order to sustain this tempo of improving the life of an African, the WTO could arrive at far reaching decisions that would further alleviate and empower the rural African. In my own opinion, agreements reached at the WTO could be tantamount to the rural African reaping the real fruits and rewards of his labour.
Ekundayo Shittu, USA
I feel the WTO talks should allow developing countries to access global markets for raw materials but also for processed products. Taking the example of Ghana as a cocoa growing country, it doesn't export a unit of Chocolate bars. This is due to policies that favour developed countries.
Yengi Desmond Tutu Soti, Uganda
As a Nigerian and an African, I don't expect much from the WTO, what I know for sure is that they will bring up policies that will make Africans poorer. Ghana sends cocoa to the developed world, then it comes back as chocolate, more expensive than the cocoa itself. This only makes the rich countries richer.
Victor Owo, Eket, Nigeria
African governments should put pressure on the international community to make realistic and reasonable profit from the international trade. While I pay $3 for a cup of coffee in Japan, Kenyan farmers get peanuts instead of what they really deserve. It is not a trade in modern times. What a shame.
How is WTO different from IMF and World Bank in their economic and trade policies? I have my doubt about WTO, for Africa cannot expect anything better than what Kofi Annan assert in his report, "more than one billion people still live below the extreme poverty line of one dollar per day and 20,000 die from poverty each day."
Bello Omede, Nigeria
Africa can expect negotiations that will help narrow down the gap of access to the world market, that is, fair trade rules that help the subsistence farmer to earn a reasonable payment from his little produce. Cotton, coffee and tobacco used to be grown in most parts of Uganda but as the prices went down, people resorted to growing pepper, sun flower and silk worms as well as rearing rabbits, now it is vanilla and rice. This instability in growing crops together with the set standards or quality of produce to be sold on to the world market will not allow Africa to compete in the global market.
Prossy Nannyombi, Uganda
Africa needs to look at the possibility of trading with one another on the continent. The alternative would be to trade with other developing countries such as Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia and even China. This is perhaps the only hope for Africa's trading relations and development.
Swalihu K. Jusu, New Zealand
Africa should expect to get nothing from WTO. The WTO is a meeting of the rich who will hammer out agreements that will benefit themselves and maintain the status quo. Africa has been ready to compete in a global market for the last 30 years but has been denied access to world markets. African governments have to start looking at increasing inter-African trade and look at the Asian market and China. The West is an important market but it does not give Africa a fair deal.
Farai Zichawo, UK
The WTO is hinged on capitalist domination of the global economy. Africa countries are advised to adopt free market economy, removal of trade restrictions, yet the world's rich countries protect their producers and restrict African exports. Its now time for WTO to, not only consider creating enabling conditions but also remove those that continue to weaken the nation states in Africa.
John Alege, UK
While Africans blame others for unfair trading terms, countries like Colombia and Vietnam are silently taking Africa's share of the market for coffee and cocoa. African countries are no longer efficient enough to compete against other suppliers even if the trading terms were fairer. What next? Out source African farms to more efficient producers - including those from outside the continent.
Liban, Oromia, Ethiopia
Africa has to put its house in order before it can gain considerably from WTO negotiations. The African Union should ensure that the continent replicates the European Union in economic integration and international trade. This would strengthen Africa politically and economically so as to be able to have a stronger voice in trade deliberations.
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leonean in USA
Most African countries are blessed with natural resources: Diamond, crude oil, Iron ore etc but are being exploited by rich countries. An example is my country Liberia that has the best iron ore in the world but have to import steel and other iron-related materials. Secondly, Liberia have the largest rubber plantation in the world but have to import plastic cups and other rubber related materials. For such a country to benefit from it's natural resources, the WTO has to make sure at least half of the country's raw materials are processed within the country, which will in turn create jobs for the citizens and increase
products for trade.
Anthony Aaron Zaizay, Liberian in US
The developed world should be encouraged to invest in Africa especially in those sectors that add value to agricultural produce so that the exports can earn more foreign currency for the continent. The body should encourage the formation and development of regional economic and trading blocks that can create regional synergy within the continent as well as being able to bargain for better terms on the international market.
Kakai Wanyonyi Cornelius, Kenya
Those who believe that Africa's problems are anything to do with "unfair" trade rules are simply deluding themselves. Africa's problem is that it is simply unable to trade because it has no infrastructure and institutions capable of sustaining any level of sustainable economic activity. In any event, what has Africa made of the preferential trading regimes extended to it by the Americans and the EU? Enough of excuses.
What African countries need to do is to process more of their raw materials, trade more with other African countries and depend less on developed countries. Developed countries will neither leave their doors wide open nor surrender their economies.
We should concentrate our energies into building a strong regional economic union that will be able to effectively compete with the West. If we keep competing in the global market as individual countries, we will fail to gain any favourable trade concessions. Let African countries forge a viable economic union which will act as a springboard for us to demand fair trade rules.
Ope Ogundokun, Nigerian in South Africa
As an African man, I don't expect anything from the WTO. My question is, why should we expect anything from the rest of the world? We should depend on ourselves.
Lino Ayat Dbol, Omdurman, Khartoum, Sudan
Africa will only develop when the rich countries stop being selfish, in terms of trade. The meeting in Hong Kong will achieve nothing, until the rich countries realise that, in a global world, what affects USA affects Africa. It is time to stop giving a hand to Africa and teach us how to fish.
Percy Ngwira, Hong Kong
Financial support. Free and fair trade.
Mengstab, Addis, Ethiopia
This issue is so close to my heart because as a young man growing up, I saw the struggle my parents went through selling coffee beans from our farm in Kenya. Sometimes they got peanuts in return. Many African countries need a chance to gain complete global market access. It is one of the only areas that has so far escaped reform and plays a critical role in the economic development of many African countries.
Josephat Mua, Kenya/USA
Africa can expect absolutely nothing, as yet. This all important socio-economic club is still in favour of the powerful west.
Shika Ahead Mansaray, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Fairness in international trade will not only help a lot of countries in Africa economically, but it will also alleviate hunger and poverty on the continent. African countries will depend less on aid, if there is a fair international trade. Africa can compete in the global market, if the environment is conducive to do so.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA
African governments should use China as a case study on which to model their economic development. Since joining the WTO, China has successfully turned her economy around and has become a global economic player.
Anthony Okosun, USA
Africa can expect nothing, unless the IMF, World Bank, and the UN push for more transparency. Currently, these organizations are overly influenced by western powers and trans-national corporations.
Brian Sylvester, USA