Last month the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Trade out of Poverty released their inquiry into the UK’s Africa Free Trade Initiative (AFTi). The report, led by Lord Green and Ali Mufuruki, comes at a time when the new Secretary of State for International Development is working hard to restore the public’s faith in UK overseas aid.
Just back from her trip to Kenya, where she visited several sites receiving UK aid, Ms. Patel has been clear that she aims to invest more into trade related aid projects. This agenda is strongly supported by the APPG for Trade out of Poverty’s recent report. The 60-page document outlines that to date African countries have traded less with each other and with the outside world than do most other countries on other continents. This has had a significant effect on individual countries income and prosperity.
On the back of this the UK coalition government of 2010-2015 launched the Africa Free Trade Initiative with the main aim of integrating African countries into the world trade system. In order to do this the program focused on cutting tariffs, streamlining regional trade arrangements, improving infrastructure, cutting red tape and modernizing customs systems.
The report outlined that notable progress has been seen across East and Southern Africa, where both African governments and regional economic communities have benefited greatly from the AFTi’s aid. By introducing simple changes AFTi has improved border and customs clearance procedures, supported trade facilitation agreements and boosted local economies.
However, the report is also quick to note that the work is by no means complete. The authors are in agreement that there still needs to be a sustained effort put into freeing up trade throughout Africa. Points of focus include; reducing tariffs, streamlining more border procedures, negotiation a wide ranging CFTA and encouraging value addition across Africa.
There still remains a serious infrastructure deficit in Africa, this teamed with inefficient practices and yields in agriculture and poor involvement in the digital economy mean Africa has work to do. As concluded in the report, there most certainly needs to be a successor to AFTi. The UK must continue to provide technical, financial and political support through partner organisations such as TMEA, AgDevCo and PIDG in order to continue progress.
Read the full report here.