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Africa urged to clear barriers for trade to flourish

African countries are their worst enemies, as they have made it difficult to do business among themselves by erecting unnecessary barriers, Kenya’s deputy President William Ruto said on Saturday.Speaking in Kigali during the African Green Revolution Forum, Ruto said the solution to African problems lies solely with Africans.

“We must remove barriers on our roads so that we can trade more. We cannot trade more with each other if we make it difficult for the free movement of people, goods and services,” he said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

In a panel discussion with the presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (Ghana) and Prime Minister of Gabon Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, and moderated by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Ruto called on Africa to relax its restrictive visa rules and disagreements that have made it almost impossible for intra-African commerce to flourish.

While backing Ruto’s sentiments, President Akufo-Addo said most African countries were a hindrance to the development of the continent.

He said six months after the heads of state gathered in Kigali to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area, a number of member states had not yet heeded to the call that would result in the largest free-trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

“We are a problem to our own trade,” remarked the President of Ghana.

According to the African Development Bank and the World Bank, intra-African trade stands at a paltry 14 per cent.

As the continent endeavours to find solutions for its problems, President Kagame noted that policy formulation must go hand in hand with resources, if Africa is to be food self-sufficient.

“Adequate funding for agriculture is key to feeding our people and the continent, and exporting the surplus,” he said, adding that for more to be produced, “we must cultivate the political and scientific leadership required to create an enabling environment that will unleash the enormous potential of this sector”.

Kagame said for a long time, Africa has been shipping value for free, and paying heavily for finished products.

He cited the case of France, United Kingdom and Germany which do not grow coffee, but import from Africa, repackage and sell to the continent at a premium.

While observing that systematic failure of policy had been Africa’s greatest undoing, the Ghana President said leaders should stop “blaming other people for our problems” and accept reality.

The four leaders agreed that African countries need to add value to their products, trade more among themselves, as well as with the outside world. This, the leaders said, will help African nations create business and markets for each other.

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