Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Inner-African development goals instead of inner-African borders


Inner-African development goals instead of inner-African borders

Inner-African development goals instead of inner-African borders
Photo credit: Ama Lorenz

During the AU-EU Summit, the Commission outlined plans for its future development policy. However, it remains open how it intends to ensure that the European Development Goals in the future are not primarily a reward for migration control measures.

“With the EU’s help, we have succeeded in developing a completely new source of added value. This will enable us to ensure that more than 5,000 participants and their families no longer suffer from poverty, produce autonomously and develop a perspective for the future,” says D.A. Nii-Noi Adumuah, the head of the Ghanaian community of Adentan.

In Adentan, the EU is supporting one out of 37 Ghanaian projects over the 2016-2020 period. The municipality focuses on mushroom cultivation: from training over job creation to a subsidised purchase of the produced goods. With €820,000 in European funds, mushrooms from Adentan will soon be found in pizza, bread or chips throughout Ghana.

“The interest in such regional offers is huge. Together with the authorities of the Greater Accra district, this creates a production and sales chain that is not only a pilot project but also creates structures that can function in the long term,” Nii-Noi Adumuah says. he hopes that one day mushrooms from Adentan will be found in neighbouring African countries too.

But he wonders about the fears and plans in Europe: “Within the ECOWAS countries, we have the option to stay visa-free for 90 days. Many African sales agents use this opportunity to do business. By the way, many Europeans do that too. What we, Africans, need are free trade routes for our products.”

He is convinced that with educational and employment opportunities in African countries, fewer people will emigrate to Europe. So why create physical and mental borders between African countries when they are a prevention for an intra-African labour and trade movement, he wonders.

“Reducing inequalities and increasing the mobilisation of domestic resources should be at the heart of the European External Investment Plan (EEIP),” says Xavier Sol, director of the NGO Counter Balance.

“If the external investment plan is meant to be an innovative tool, it must focus on quality projects that offer a high development value. Focus on small projects with positive social and environmental impacts for the local population and territories is necessary.”

Yet, European goods are still flooding local markets and destroying them so it remains questionable how sustainable European development policy really is.

“Schengen for us, fences for Africa”

According to the theses on migration control in the German newspaper taz, European money flows predominantly to places where migration figures can be reduced quickly – countries like Niger, Eritrea, Sudan or Mali.

The losers are Africans, just like in colonial times. Development experts have been warning for a long time that the first steps in intra-African market liberalisation and labour migration, joint visa regulation or the free movement of goods could be dashed by the EU’s efforts to strengthen intra-African borders.

If the EU succeeds in establishing “Fortress Europe” on the African continent, the European migration defence would be a side jab on the development policy in the African states. What is more important is that the European External Investment Plan (EEIP) is decoupled from European migration strategies and that it meets real development needs, says a report by Counter Balance NGO that monitors public investment banks.

“Help through trade”

‘Regional integration’ is the magic word which can bring economic development. Before the EU-AU summit, the Parliament with great majority adopted the EU-Africa Strategy, which proposes the creation of a continental free trade zone to boost inner-African trade by 50% until 2050.

But for that, effective escape clauses, asymmetrical liberalisation plans, protection for developing branches, simplification and transparency of custom proceedings are needed.

The EU is already one of the biggest Aid for Trade donors worldwide. In 2015 alone, it provided an annual record sum of €13.16 billion. The Aid for Trade strategy aims at better coordination and combination of already present instruments for development financing at the European and national level.

This can also benefit companies like Golden Exotic Limited (GEL) in Kasunya, one of Ghana’s most modern and innovative banana plantations. It will receive more than €7 million under the Banana Aid Measures [BAM – a European aid fund designed to facilitate trade between banana-producing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific] over the 2015-2018 period.

GEL is currently the largest exporter of bananas (51,000 tonnes per year) for the European and regional markets.

“We are concerned about the EU’s intended free trade agreement with Latin American countries. They are direct competitors for African banana cultivation. Although we comply with Fairtrade and all EU Commission seals of approval, our products are already subject to stricter tariff and trade restrictions. As long as there is no free trade agreement with Africa, the agreement with Latin America would be another competitive disadvantage,” says Golden Exotic Limited.

If the trade routes to North Africa are hampered by new border and trade regulations, this would be an additional barrier for intra-African trade.

This article was first published by EURACTIV Germany, and translated by Alexandra Brzozowski.


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