Africa Powering Ahead With Free-Trade Areas

In 2010 it took three weeks for a shipping container to travel the 1,100m from the port of Mombasa to Kampala, the Ugandan capital. These delays were predominantly the result of unnecessary red tape between the two countries and poor infrastructure.

6 years on the development community seems to have recognised that by boosting trade you can help developing nations build long term prosperity and eventually ween them off international aid and support for trade facilitating project is growing.

TradeMark East Africa has in no uncertain terms been at the forefront of these developments. The donor-funded agency works to increase trade in the East African region by working with governments and people to unlock economic potential. Not least by playing a significant role in the reduction of the time it takes a shipping container to reach Kampala through supporting border forces and government to streamline their processes.

However, East Africa may well be the most prominent in terms of trade developments at the moment but the vast majority of Africa’s 54 nations are all a member of at least one regional economic group and the movement is gathering momentum.

Last year three of the largest — the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the east African Community (EAC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) — came together under the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement.

African leaders want to take this one step further and create a single free-trade area spanning the continent that would boost commerce, stimulate growth and create much needed employment.  Much is to be done if intra-African trade is to reach its full potential. This year only 19% of the continents $930 billion total trade was internal. Compared to 60% for the EU.

With DfID set to release their economic strategy imminently and the recent bilateral review clearly outlining a commitment to aid for trade, FFTD is anxious to see what concrete steps the UK government will take to support flourishing economies in Africa and help unlock the continents potential.mombasa_container_terminal1-2

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