The signing of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) must be based on Africa’s integration priorities and not dictated by Europe’s interests, a continental forum heard in Dar es Salaam on Friday.
The forum, aimed at celebrating the Africa Union Day, also noted that the plan to boost African intra-trade set through the Abuja Treaty must fight to ensure that the Abuja Economic Intergration Agenda is not hijacked by outsiders.
Speaking at the event whose theme was ‘Boosting intra-African Trade,’ various academicians and diplomats accredited to Tanzania highlighted that in order for the continent to scale up the levels at which countries were trading with each other, both tariff and non-tariff barriers should be removed.
A consultant with the Africa Human rights Court and a UDSM economist, Prof Robert Mabele, said the EPAs have to consider Africa’s integration priorities and not Europe’s interests. EPAs are effectively free trade agreements ratified by individual countries.
In September, last year, the European Commission proposed to amend its regulations giving preferences to African Caribbean and Pacific Countries so that they have duty-free and quotafree market access to the EU market. The proposal called for the removal of ACP countries, including Tanzania, from having such preferential access to the EU markets if the ACP countries would not have ratified the EPAs by January 2014.
Prof Mabele said Africa’s share in global trade is around 3 per cent in 2012, having fallen from 8 per cent in 1948. Experts said that even if one were to add the informal trade contributions between the continent and the rest of the world it could not surpass 10 per cent. He said Africa has a relatively low level of intra-trade at 10 per cent as compared to 60 per cent in Europe, 40 per cent in North America and 30 per cent from Asia, with half of the intra-regional trade occurs within SADC dominated by SouthAfrica.
He said low intra-regional trade on the continent means inability to fully harness the synergies and complementaries of the African economies. He also pointed at failure to take advantage of the economies of scale for example income, economic integration and employment generation.
The Executive Director of Dar Corridor Committee Mr Peter Mmasi said in order to manage trade offs, African countries should cede competence against sovereignty concerns. He said nations are sensitive about sovereignty but that in order to benefit from economies of scale, they have to cede some of it. He said transport adds up to 60 per cent to the cost of imported goods.
“High transport costs negate price differential. If we ignore the principle, we can not just wish for the outcome. If we want to bring down transport costs, we have to invest in transport infrastructure, ” he said. He added that if Africa is able to trade with the outside world, then we should be able to trade within ourselves because the principles used are the same.
The Dean of African Diplomatic Group Mr Ibrahim Mukiibi and High Commissioner of Uganda to Tanzania urged that the region invest in infrastructure to beat the non-tariff barriers. “You go to Malaba and over 1,000 trucks are queuing. No road can sustain such cargo. Our friends in the west are ensuring we concentrate on roads because they manufacture cars. Let’s focus on water transport and railway development,” he said.