Africa should remove barriers to intra-continental trade: WTO head
It is imperative for Africa to overcome barriers to intra-continental trade, grow more of its own food and find ways to process its raw materials in place, says WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Okonjo-Iweala, the first African director-general of WTO and former two-term finance minister of Nigeria, believes the major threats to African trade are mostly internal to the continent.
“I think those threats are the poor logistics and infrastructure that should support trade on the continent, which we need to improve, and the bureaucratic elements that prevent movement of goods and services within the continent itself,” Okonjo-Iweala tells African Business in an interview.
“The lack of value added to our products is also a threat to increased trade,” she adds. “63% of the exports of the continent are still primary commodities [unprocessed raw materials] and it is a threat if we cannot transform those primary commodities into finished goods so we can really trade these things among ourselves.”
Okonjo-Iweala, 68, highlights the barriers many African businesses have accessing trade finance.
“We need to look at the trade finance gap, which is estimated by some to be $80bn [in Africa]. Those who want to trade – small and medium enterprises, big enterprises, cannot access the finance they need to really trade.”