Geneva; Monday – 14 September, 2020
The Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee, an initiative supported by the AU and the two leading continental finance institutions (AfDB and Afreximbank), that speaks for the African private sector around issues of trade and investments, held a webinar themed ‘The Africa Private Sector and the WTO Race’ on Thursday, 10th September 2020.
The specific objective of the webinar was to provide an opportunity for the African private sector to outline their expectations from the WTO and new Director General and highlight their priority interests as they relate to the global trading system and the promotion of African trade with the view to shaping the selection of the new Head of WTO.
The webinar commenced with opening remark by the President, Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah, delivered on his behalf by Prof. Pat Utomi, Chairman of PAFTRAC. Dr. Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist and Director, Research and International Cooperation, Afreximbank presented the findings of an extensive survey of African CEOs to guage their sentiment around the WTO rules-based system as well as their expectations from the organization at the Webinar.
The Webinar assembled a panel of eminent entrepreneurs to discuss issues around the theme, which comprised of:
- Prof. Pat Utomi, Chairman of PAFTRAC
- Mr. Samuel Dossou-Aworet, Vice-Chairman of PAFTRAC and President, African Business Roundtable
- Ms. Mashile-Nkosi, Executive Chairperson of Kalagadi Manganèse
- Mr. Jaswinder Bedi, President Export Promotion Council Kenya
- Dr. Amany Asfour, Vice Chairperson PAFTRAC
- Godfrey Mutizwa, Writer, Conference Moderator
Mr. Samuel Dossou in his contribution to discussions, stated that Africa should first know what they want, articulate and develop their agenda and defend their interests. He said Africa must unite and speak with one voice on issues of common interests such as health, education, food security, free movement of people, goods and services across borders to enhance regional integration.
Furthering his intervention at the Webinar, Mr. Dossou, pointed out that, Africa has the market, possesses the human capital with skills and expertise to transform its economies and the African Private sector has well developed with capacity to negotiate and partner with its counterparts all around the globe, and to finance projects.
He opined that Africa must build capacities for business development and leadership through education and inculcation of knowledge appropriate to leadership and enterprise development among every one saddled with making decisions in all sectors – government ministries, legislative assemblies, judiciary and the private sector. This will enhance the creation of enabling environment for businesses to thrive and become competitive as everyone with such responsibility, will know and understand and be held accountable to do what is right and appropriate.
The ABR President speaking further, stated that, though governments regulate and facilitate trade and investments, it is firms, entrepreneurs, business men and women that do the actual trading and investing. Therefore the active engagement of business people right from the policy formulation to implementation stages are crucial to creating the enabling environment for private enterprise growth and economic development.
Mr. Dossou advised Africa and indeed the entire developing countries to unite and take joint actions to protect their interest, spearhead reforms and ensure their survival in a multilateral trading environment which has come under severe threat, by unfair policies and actions of some countries in the developed economies and more recently by the disruptive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Africa cannot afford to remain as passive onlookers or at best pawns in the global trading chess board’. They must take their destiny in their hands and should not be shy to negotiate and take advantage of opportunities, including sponsoring qualified candidates to vie for headship of Multilateral Institutions, such as the WTO. As a first step, Africa must move beyond the mindset of fragmentation along primordial colonial partitioning and allegiances, to present and rally behind its best candidates as one people.
Mr. Dossou reminded the audience that the African Business Roundtable was established by the African Development Bank thirty years ago, to serve as a unifying umbrella platform for business men and women, entrepreneurs indigenous to Africa and doing business with Africa, to associate, form business linkages and partnerships, conduct businesses under global best corporate governance principles/ethics. ABR is well focused and fully determined to fulfil this mandate and stands ready to cooperate, collaborate and partner with other Business Associations and entities with like vision, for the development of Africa’s private sector.
Mr. Dossou commended Afreximbank for revitalizing PAFTRAC and bringing together regional Business Associations on the platform to work collaboratively on issues of common interest. He said, African governments and multilateral development institutions MUST make efforts and take deliberate actions to facilitate cooperation and collaboration among African private sector institutions, rather than engendering unhealthy rivalries and fragmentation; because a strong, united and well capacitated indigenous private sector is a sine qua non for Africa’s economic transformation and sustainable development. The Africa private sector MUST be encouraged to also speak with one voice and have unity of purpose and action on issues of common interest.
African Business Roundtable
Tel: +234 816 2320 139