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AfCFTA: World Trade Organization worries over deindustrialisation in Africa

…Calls for easier border crossing, improve infrastructure

The World Trade Organization (WTO), has expressed concern that manufacturing has gone backwards in most African countries in recent decades particularly in the wake of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the WTO, who shared this concern in an interview with the FT Africa Summit, said that African countries need to bring back the old type of manufacturing jobs in order to create decent jobs for the youth.

Okonjo-Iweala, who doubles as the first African head of WTO, also said that African countries need to have borders that are very easy to cross to be able to implement AfCFTA successfully.

According to her, countries in the continent need to improve the state of infrastructure between them to be able to have smooth functioning of markets.

While pointing out that both issues need a lot of investments, she said that these countries have to start from somewhere.

Read also: Expert sees adoption of blockchain tech aiding AfCFTA

“My dream is that we can have, for instance, a whole eco-system for pharmaceutical products on the continent, where some countries can be making some inputs while others will be finishing the products because we have a large market. African Continental Free Trade Area is absolutely critical. It is so attractive. Imagine being in a market of 1.3 billion consumers where you can cross borders,” she explained.

Okonjo-Iweala, who disclosed that rectifications by different countries have gone on to enable implementation of the agreement, said that the WTO is working with secretaries of various countries to help with capacity building and regulatory frameworks.

On Nigeria’s disposition to AfCFTA agreement, she said that at the beginning, Nigeria was reluctant in participating because the manufacturers association was trying to see what the agreement really means for Nigeria.

“They wanted to ensure that goods are being manufactured on the continent and not brought into the continent, and built as being manufactured in Africa with little value addition,” she said.

She further said: “So, you can see how manufacturers were worried that some of these issues needed to be sorted out. But when sorted out, Nigeria sees the advantage of the vast market because Nigeria has the ability to produce its products and should be looking at this as a good thing not a bad thing,” she said.

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