The East African Community (EAC) secretary general, Dr Richard Sezibera, has given a positive endorsement of intra-trade growth prospects within the African continent.
Speaking at the Africa Global Business forum in Dubai last week, Dr Sezibera said East African countries traded more with each other in the last three years, growing their trade volumes by about 22 per cent.
Intra-African trade is still comparatively low and ranks among the smallest levels of intra-regional trade globally. For instance, 70 per cent of the European Union’s trade takes place within the region.
Data from the EAC Secretariat shows that intra-EAC trade grew to $5.5 billion in 2012, up from $4.5 billion recorded in 2011, even as the five member states of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi, struggled with the elimination of non-trade barriers.
“I am very optimistic about intra-trade in Africa and the prospects are looking good. To ensure this continues, it is important to remove barriers, like road blocks, and investing in infrastructure in the effort to make trade streamlined.
In order to guarantee a free-trade area in Africa’s future, we must apply Dubai’s strategy which includes having a clear vision of where we want to be and the determination to build capacity by acquiring talent from different countries.”
A recent research on cross-border payments by independent market research agency-SWIFT has indicated that African countries carry out about 23 per cent of their trade with one another, a per centage higher than the 15 per cent estimate by the World Bank and African Development Bank.
More than one thousand registered delegates engaged in the Africa Global Business Forum 2014 organised by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Mr Hamad Buamim, the president and CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, noted that the forum succeeded in addressing the challenges that the investors face in Africa, identifying new business opportunities, and driving future cooperation between Africa and Dubai. More than 130 one-on-one meetings were facilitated between investors, businessmen, and companies.
The global chief economist and head of Macro Strategy at Renaissance Capital, Mr Charles Robertson, said there is a vast pool of badly measured growth data for Africa.
He said this is partly attributed to fast growth which makes it difficult to obtain up-to-date figures. “It is clear that Africa is experiencing a commodity boom but the focus now should be on education to alleviate rural poverty and to develop Africa’s middle class,” he said.
Mr Tony Fernandes, the founder of AirAsia Group, said Africa has enormous potential for low cost travel and his aim is to improve connections between Asia and Africa.