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New report urges Africa to diversify exports to fight poverty

Published date:
Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Most recent report by Debt, AIDS, and Trade in Africa (DATA) has yet again reminded Africa to diversify its exports further than over-reliance on raw agricultural products as the surest means of increasing its share of global trade.

It is DATA's 2008 report which categorically states that value-added products such as processed foods, apparels, footwear and other labour-intensive agricultural and manufactured goods are vitally important in boosting Africa's trade in global markets and help uplift the continent from the shackles of poverty.

For many reasons, Africa's ability to export some of the products it can competitively produce was being impeded by tariffs across the globe, though new preferential trading avenues such as African Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) has meaningfully lowered the cost of trading in the US.

It cites another special trading window that allows some African products duty-free access to developed country markets as the EU`s Everything But Arms Programme (EBA).

While existing preferential markets are not perfect, they have all the same sparked growth in fledgling sectors such as apparel, generating thousands of jobs, it says.

DATA report insists that the G8 (United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Britain) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should now put in practice their commitments to allow 97 percent of products from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to penetrate their markets.

This seems to be the most proactive strategy for helping continent fight against poverty and establish in-built and resilient systems able to cushion the adverse impacts of HIV/Aids pandemic.

``First this proposal should be expanded to include all African countries rather than just the Least Developed countries (LDCs)``, it says.

Compiled by a team with extensive experience in politics, advocacy and development policy in the United States, Europe, and Africa, report adds that ``market access policies that benefit the poorest countries should not neglect regional economic engines such as China, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa that could pull smaller economies along in their wake, just as Brazil has done in South America and China and India have done in Asia``.

It as well rings a bell to developed countries to eliminate trade distorting subsidies and financing aid for trade.

``Without progress on these issues, the global trade system is stacked against the poorest, making it extremely difficult for Africans to trade their way out of poverty``, it laments.

DATA is a multinational non-government organization founded in January 2002 in London by U2`s Bono along with Bobby Shriver and activists from the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt campaign.

It was created for the purpose of obtaining equality and justice for Africa through debt relief, adjusting trade rules which burden Africa, eliminating the African AIDS epidemic, strengthening democracy, more accountability by the wealthiest nations and African leaders and transparency towards the people.

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