The private sector’s desire for considerable reforms to make the global trade rules system fairer and more transparent was revealed in a survey issued by the Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee (PAFTRAC) to gauge the private sector view around trade. Concerning WTO and trade in general two hundred CEOs where surveyed. This was done because of the ongoing consultations to select the next Director General, in which three of the eighth candidates are African: Kenya’s Amina Mohammed, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-lweala and Egypt’s Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh. The survey covered a number of areas which revealed a general consensus that the present rules threatens the African continent and its private sector. A major percentage of the CEOs (86%) understand the role of WTO in global trade.
But, a majority believe the WTO is not effective in fulfilling its role. Apart from those things that are said to be the major constraints to growth in Africa which includes logistics, infrastructures and human capital, the skewed international trade regime was also emphasized by the CEOs as a key constraints.
“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.” Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank said.
If the majority of CEOs believed that the global trading system was unfair, most also see the multilateral system strengthening in the coming years. They outlined a set of reforms that should be undertaken for a fairer and more transparent trading system, including in the areas of agriculture, voice and participation, tariffs and non-tariff barriers.
A good percentage of the CEOs were futuristic: over 70% of CEOs believe intra-africa trade will increase over the next 12 months and over 50% of CEOs believe global trade will increase over the next 12 months. Pat Utomi, Chair of PAFTRAC, emphasized that unless reform was forthcoming the current global crisis may penalise the African private sector even further: “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.”