NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 – The curtains to the 8th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum came down on Thursday with calls to make trade within Africa a reality to boost growth of the continent’s economies.
Speaking when he officially closed the forum, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said Africa has the capacity to grow its economy to grater heights if it follows on the recommendations of the US government to open up trade within the continent.
“Africa will blossom when our economies become integrated so as to take up advantage of economies of scale and jointly market as continent of opportunity and plenty,” said Mr Musyoka.
He said he was looking forward with great expectation to the day Africa would no longer rely on foreign aid to finance its budget and was certain by increasing regional trade “that day will surely come.”
Mr Musyoka challenged African governments, policymakers and the private sector to come up with new strategies of increasing trade among African nations which he noted has a huge market base of 850 million-plus people.
“Indeed the need for paradigm shift towards intra-Africa trade cannot be over-emphasized considering that trade among Africans remain pitifully dismal despite the huge market. This should prick our collective conscience as governments, policy makers and private sector,” Mr Musyoka noted.
United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk said even with the current economic crisis he remains confident the proposals discussed during the three day forum will help build a bright future for Africa through AGOA.
“We believe by strengthening AGOA, we can create jobs and investment in your communities and create new opportunities for investment opportunities for the future,” he said.
Trade Minister Amos Kimunya who addressed the occasion said there was need to provide substantial resources for capacity building to be used for research especially to the agricultural sector.
Mr Kimunya said with a host of challenges plaguing the continent ranging from lack of production capacity to high cost of doing business, the forum went a long way in coming up with solutions that would turn around African fortunes if implemented.
He said the forum raised concern that Africa’s share of global trade still remained dismal despite the enormous potential the continent possessed.
“An increase of only one percent will create a significant difference to African economies. In this respect we must seek to build strong partnerships as government with private sector and civil society to enhance trade and investment as a way of addressing our development needs.”
He revealed that there was a shared understanding between the participants to of the need by African countries to redouble their efforts and strategies to tap into market potential created by AGOA.
Some of the challenges highlighted at the conference include the high cost of doing business, lengthy procedures on US standards and compliance. Lack of product diversification was put down as the reason the continent only makes use of one percent of product lines available.
The forum identified several recommendations ranging from scaling up aid to vulnerable countries hardest hit by the economic downturn to creation of mutual recognition of sanitary standards to increase the number of goods into American markets.