By David Wanjala
It was a major milestone for Kenya and other African nations when ‘Maafikiano’, a work plan that will guide the United Nations Centre for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for the next four years was reached in Nairobi last month.
Maafikiano gives a central role to UNCTAD in delivering the sustainable development goals and, in the words of its Secretary General Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD can now get on with the business of cutting edge analysis, building political consensus, and providing the necessary technical assistance that will make globalisation and trade work for billions of people in the global South
Looking at the economics of trade, the session of the conference highlighted major issues with poor infrastructure, food security and unemployment appearing to stagnate the growth of various countries and regions. The high level gathering also discussed non-tariff measures and debts, which as always the case, can be compared to lice in someone’s clothes. Question is, how many of us will remain in solidarity, and follow the mutual agreement to letter?
Data from UNCTAD shows that developing countries lose an estimated $23 billion of their exports every year to the Group of 20 thanks to failure to comply with the G20 non-tariff measures. The developed countries, with this kind of trend, want to help those at the bottom. And with the launch of a new database, which has already attracted 56 countries, it seems Africa was waiting for her turn, which has come – as policy makers will now collect, validate, or even store data on trade as part of the fight to ease trade.
African countries however, are dragged and hurt by that corruption that thrives where big projects are involved. You cannot, for instance, subsidise the cost of fertilizer by providing tax incentives to importers and once the product lands in the country, farmers are forced to buy at inflated prices because certain people must ‘eat’. In the end farmers are unable to receive the benefits as initially intended– it tells the hard fact that true economies must have true pillars.
The ‘Maafikiano’ agreement is the only progress we can claim to setting up the much-needed pillars today, but whether it will help turn around globalisation and trade negotiations, build political consensus and social state of all, remains to be seen. Rarely do these agreements ever work in favour of Africa but we must be optimistic.