Montreux, Geneva — Addressing African negotiators at a high-level retreat taking place in Montreux from 3-4 October, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa Mr. Carlos Lopes stressed that in tackling multilateral negotiations, they must keep in mind that Africa's transformative agenda rests on the premises of structural transformation and deeper regional integration.
The African Group met in the run-up to the 9th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference to be held in Bali early December, with the aim of debating the state of play of negotiations and contributing to a common African position.
Mr. Lopes noted that the Bali Conference will place at a time when Africa is celebrating 50 Years of the OAU/AU, and charting out a development agenda for the next 50 years. These key objectives, he said are critical to the continent's goal of generating sufficient employment for its growing and increasingly educated labour force.
He underscored that the prevailing narrative on Africa is grossly misleading, and the recent developments in the international context "should give African negotiators renewed strength."
"The private sector has long recognized profitable investment opportunities in the continent, including in sectors that offer ample scope to support structural transformation", he said.
He further stressed that multilateral liberalization should not be pursued at the expenses of Africa's integration and transformation agenda. On the contrary, argued Mr. Lopes, African countries should defend their policy space; spare no efforts to embark on an industrialization path; step up domestic resource mobilization; and foster greater value addition.
The Executive Secretary urged the negotiators to think outside the box and put Africa's interests first by setting the continent's agenda and laying it before the rest of the world in a confident and convincing way.
The retreat was organized by the African Union Delegation in Geneva, with the financial and technical support of the ECA, and featured ¬- amongst others - the addresses of Jean Marie Ehouzou, Permanent Representative of the African Union in Geneva, Omar Hilale, Ambassador of Morocco and coordinator of the African Group; and Mr. Carlos Lopes, ECA's Executive Secretary. The debate covered the key negotiating issues tabled for Bali, namely trade facilitation, agriculture, and development issues, including the so-called "LDC package". The assembly also discussed a recent study by ECA, which shed light on transaction costs and intermediates' trade in Africa, and takes stocks of trade facilitation initiatives in the continent, at both of national and regional level.