James Emejo in Abuja
African private sector chief executives have expressed their desire for considerable reforms to make the global trade rules system fairer and more transparent.
The over 200 CEOs surveyed were assessed around issues concerning the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and trade in general.
Nigeria’s candidate for WTO Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is competing with Kenya’s Amina Mohamed and Egypt’s Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh in the next phase of ongoing consultations to select the institution’s next leader.
According to the survey which was commissioned by the Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee (PAFTRAC), and conducted by African Business magazine in partnership with the Afreximbank, African CEOs clearly called for a fairer system governing global trade that will support developing countries.
About 37 per cent of the CEOs surveyed felt the WTO is currently ineffective while 65 per cent of the chief executives believed the global trading system is unfair to Africa.
They, however remained optimistic about the future outlook for the continent as 50 per cent of CEOs
believed global trade will increase over the next 12 months while over 70 per cent believed intra-Africa trade will increase over the next one year.
PAFTRAC in a statement noted that the survey had covered a number of areas which revealed a general consensus that the current rules penalise the African continent and its private sector.
The Chair of PAFTRAC, Prof. Pat Utomi, stressed that unless reform was forthcoming, the current global crisis may penalise the African private sector even further.
He said: “We have seen during this pandemic companies in the industrialised world have received massive bailouts, tax incentives, not to mention government contracts and fiscal stimuli. Companies in Africa were not so fortunate and will have to deal with a world where trade will be depressed because of the post-COVID environment. As such, a fairer global trade environment and trading system is more urgent today than ever.”
On his part, President of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah, said: “As the pan-African trade finance bank, Afreximbank has been mandated to host the PAFTRAC secretariat. Any reform needs to support a burgeoning African private sector and an increasingly integrated Africa. We have seen, over the past quarter of a century since the WTO was formed, the emergence of a robust and dynamic African private sector, and more recently significant steps to integrate Africa under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The WTO and its new leadership will need to recognise the imperative of African integration and put development at the centre of any trade agenda.”
The group’s position is expected to be communicated to all candidates who are in the race for the directorship of the WTO.
Although, the majority of CEOs believed that the global trading system was unfair, most also see the multilateral system strengthening in the coming years, the statement added.
They outlined a set of reforms that should be undertaken for a fairer and more transparent trading system, including in the areas of voice and participation, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, agriculture and subsidies.