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African CEOs decry WTO systems as unfair

A survey commissioned by the Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee (PAFRAC) and conducted by the African Business magazine in partnership with Afrexim Bank, has revealed that African CEOs are explicitly calling for a fairer system in the global trade.

During a webinar held on Thursday that discussed the findings indicated that out of the 200 CEOs that participated in the survey, 65 percent of the CEOs feel the global trading system is unfair to Africa and 37 percent have expressed that they feel the World Trade Organization (WTO) stands ineffective to assist developments of Africa.

However, the CEOs expressed optimism about the future outlook. Over 50 percent of CEOs trust that global trade will surge next year and over 70 percent believe that intra-Africa trade will increase over the next 12 months.

The survey covered a number of areas revealing an overall consensus that the current rules in WTO penalize the African continent and its private sector. According to the survey, 86.6 percent of the respondents understand the role of the WTO in the global trade. However, the majority said that the WTO is not effective in fulfilling its role. Infrastructure, logistics and human capital were cited as major constraints to growth in Africa. The CEOs also stressed that the skewed international trade regiment as additional key constraints.

The magazine and the committee involved 200 CEOs to discuss their views and issues concerning the WTO and the global trade in general. The survey was done in light of the next phase of ongoing consultations to select the WTO’s next Director General. Three of the eight candidates are African. Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Kenya's foreign minister Amina Mohamed and Egypt's Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh, former WTO director of trade in services and investment division, are vying to assume the leadership role.

The survey which intended to gauge the views of Africa’s business leaders around trade has highlighted the private sector’s desire for considerable reforms, to make the global trade rules system fairer and more transparent. Benedict Oramah (Prof.), President of Afrexim Bank said, “As the pan-African trade finance bank, Afrexim Bank has been mandated to host the PAFTRAC secretariat. Any reform needs to support a burgeoning African private sector and an increasingly integrated Africa.”

 According to Oramah, a robust African private sector has been in the making following the establishment of the global trade system. “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 recognize the imperative of African integration and put development at the center of any trade agenda.”