Africa sits on a ticking time bomb that could be diffused with timeous interventions from politicians working hand-in-glove with business. High poverty levels, coupled with high youth unemployment, could potentially destabilise this continent that has so much untapped potential.
Intra-Africa trade, which by its own definition is the trade between the continent’s dozens of countries, should top the African Union agenda because if African leaders could formulate policies to spur intra-Africa trade as a means of combating poverty and creating meaningful jobs, it will make Africa proud. “We should be the change that we want to see in the world,” was once said by Mahatma Gandhi, an astute politician who spearheaded the Indian nationalist movement against British colonial rule.
Without doubt, part of the solution to widespread youth unemployment and the eradication of poverty could be found in agriculture because Africa is blessed with large tracts of uncultivated fertile land with plenty of water.
Africa has ample virgin and arable land yet it is not uncommon to hear reports that Brazil, a faraway South American country supplies 60 percent of South Africa’s poultry. Brazil also dumps unwanted chicken parts such as chicken feet and necks on Africans and ironically it exports prime portions such as chicken fillet and poultry breast to Europe where the regulators are strict and insist on quality for consumers.
It defies logic that South Africa of all countries would import chicken from Brazil. Nigeria, Africa’s largest crude oil producer, ‘imports’ the very oil that it produces because it failed to build a single oil refinery despite the fact it has generated over US$600 billion dollars in the past 50 years. Statements from Lagos to the effect that Nigeria will build its own oil refineries remain mere empty political rhetoric as there is little to show for this grandstanding.
Namibia is among the African countries where Brazil dumps rejected chicken portions such as necks, feet and chicken bones. Zambia exports large quantities of raw copper but is essentially broke judging by the colossal debts it has incurred. Zambia has very little to show for where all the billions of dollars it earned through copper exports has gone. We doubt it has any factory producing coins, pipes, wires and all the electronics made out of copper.
Ghana is no exception. It is one of the largest producers of cocoa, the main ingredient for chocolate, yet Europe dominates the global chocolate market.
If Nigeria had its own oil refineries it would have minted a fortune and it would have diversified its economy and boosted intra-Africa trade through its wide range of home-grown products. Zambia would by this time be reaping big time from intra-Africa trade by exporting electronics, copper pipes and wires to other African countries that import these products from Europe and China.
By now Ghanaian chocolate should have become an African household name. The fact that South Africa is reliant on Brazilian poultry does not mean Africa lacks the capacity to produce poultry on a large scale to feed its own people.
West African countries, on average, import meat worth US$3 billion per annum from Argentina and Australia even though Mali, Chad and Sudan were given the chance through intra-African trade to easily supply all the meats required by these West African countries. Kenya imports pricier raw hides from New Zealand while Burundi, that offers cheaper hides, has to export them elsewhere at a much lower price and Kenya is unaware it could source this from Rwanda, which is a missed opportunity for this intra-Africa trade.
If Africans could resolve issues around the lack of market information, which is among the major issues affecting intra-Africa trade, exports and manufacturing opportunities could be unlocked while boosting continental intra-trading. The global economy has witnessed widespread creation of trade blocs and market expansion and product diversification, which should be embraced by all African countries. This is one of the approaches that could be used to implement and boost intra-continental trade among African countries. And the time is now.
2019-07-26 11:03:58 26 days ago