World Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general Pascal Lamy has hailed Africa’s North-South Corridor project as a “perfect” example of ‘aid for trade’, demonstrating African leaders’ focus on ensuring that opening trade remains top of the political agenda.
Speaking at the North-South Corridor Pilot Aid for Trade Conference in Zambia, Lamy said the project was an example of “how to put together all the elements necessary for trade to flow, creating the conditions necessary for the private sector to diversify from exporting a narrow range of raw material and add more value”.
He said the presence of the four African presidents at the conference, namely Zambian President Rupiah Banda, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, showed political commitment.
“It says to the world that you, the Presidents, know that problems will arise, but that you are ready to step in and act in this situation,” reiterated Lamy.
The North-South Corridor comprises the Dar es Salaam Corridor, linking the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania with the Copperbelt of Zambia, and the corridor linking the Copperbelt to the southern ports in South Africa. The North-South Corridor, together with its adjacent spurs, services eight countries – Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.
“This conference is a first occasion after the G20 meeting to show that the commitments made in London are translating into reality at a time of economic crisis. It demonstrates a resolve to avoid the temptation of short-term isolationist reflexes, and instead focus on investing in the future by ensuring that opening trade remains top of the political agenda,” Lamy said.
He stated that as an organisation, the WTO was about trying to level the playing field of trade rules, making trade possible. “But making trade possible is one thing; making it happen is quite another. We know that for numerous WTO members, making trade happen requires addressing a range of supply-side constraints.”
Crucial to this effort is the impetus given to regional integration through the East Africa Community; the Common Market for East and Southern Africa; and the Southern African Development Community. This is essential for Africa given the low rate of intra-region trade, Lamy argued.
“This places huge vulnerability on the continent and means that when crisis hits the major markets, Africa suffers more than others. Trading more amongst yourselves is an insurance policy in time of crisis,” Lamy stressed.
“The North-South Corridor is a work in progress. Difficulties will be encountered as you bump into roadblocks and encounter bottlenecks on the way,” he concluded.