Speaking as a respected leader concerned with the development of his continent, not his country, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that African countries have the capacity to redouble their internal trade by 2030 and reduce their reliance on imports.
The President spoke during the 2nd Intra-African Trade Fair 2021 in Durban, South Africa.
According to him, most of Africa’s existing challenges, especially in the areas of security, economy and corruption, can be traced to the inability of Africans to domesticate production of basic needs and provide jobs to the teeming and dynamic youths.
‘‘Under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” the President said, “we can double our intra-African trade by 2030, reduce our reliance on imports and, therefore, create more jobs within the continent.”
Intra-Africa trade has historically been low. Intra-African exports were 16.6% of total exports in 2017, compared with 68% in Europe and 59% in Asia. By removing trade barriers and allowing the free movement of goods, services, and people across Africa, it is estimated that AfCFTA could help to increase combined consumer and business spending on the continent to $6.7 trn by 2030.
However, the President, rightly, argues that Africans cannot achieve this goal by talking alone, just as the leaders often do. He says that although it is difficult to achieve that goal of attaining economic independence, the task is doable if both the public and private sectors work, as they should, together.
And, yes, the President is right. There is plenty of ambition in Africa, among Africans, to industrialise, for good reasons. Manufacturing is probably the only proven development model so far that has helped to bring jobs, export revenues and rapid and sustained prosperity to a range of (mainly Asian) poorer countries.
But unless African countries get down to the messy and laborious task of actively promoting manufacturing through targeted infrastructure, skills development, financial policy, making quality connections with agriculture and services in partnership with the private sector and preparing for a more digital future, significant industrial capacity may never take hold in Africa.
Large scale manufacturing on the African continent is mostly absent. But there are many success stories and promising avenues in some countries such as Nigeria and South Africa.
The share of manufacturing in sub-Saharan African gross domestic product (GDP) has declined from 14% in 2000 to 9.6% in 2010 and has remained at that level until now. But it is also true that the value of manufacturing output and exports had doubled over the last decade.
Annual manufacturing growth rates since 2000 were close to 10% in Ethiopia (among the top three in the world), Rwanda and Tanzania – though from a low base. Sub-Saharan Africa’s garment and textiles exports to the United States increased by 18% from the first half of 2017 to the first half of 2018, and a whopping 106% in Ethiopia, thanks in part to a drive to build special economic zones.
Thus, there are major opportunities for African manufacturing. With African markets growing and the new African Continental Free Trade Area in place, the situation makes the case for increasing regional trade in services which, in turn, support industrialisation.
With African markets growing and the new African Continental Free Trade Area, there are now major opportunities for African manufacturing.
However, like the President suggests, governments in Africa must support local entrepreneurs to build businesses and improve productivity.
But, while on the one hand the governments should provide incentives to encourage businesses, it should, on the other, make rules to formalise the rules and make businesses comply with laid down regulations.
On this note, the President, thankfully, reminds his colleagues and participants at the trade fair that: ‘‘Free trade must also be fair and fairness can only be achieved when there is full compliance with regulations, especially those relating to rules of origin. The AfCFTA is for “made-in-Africa” products and services. Africa must be a marketplace where no country is left behind.”
In essence, the President says that Africans should implement the AfCFTA with a view to creating manufacturers and jobs to attract revenues for Africa and guarantee the continent and its peoples’ development.
At 77, Prof. Gambari gets special recognition
The members of the tribe of professors, which Ibrahim Agboola Gambari belongs, are known to be very learned and educated. They have dedicated their lives to studies and passing knowledge.
A professor is an intelligent man blessed with knowledge and loves to share it. Professors are intellectual people who enjoy their birthdays too.
They may seem grim most of the time, maybe because they have too much on their mind, making it a duty of others such as a friend, colleague, family or someone who is close to them to make sure they enjoy their born days.
Of course, professors are not known to have time for fun or celebrating even on their birthdays. Therefore, it seems appropriate for people to take their time off and send them wishes on their special day.
Gladly, President Muhammadu Buhari did just that on Wednesday, and even led the members of his cabinet to wish his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, a happy 77th birthday celebrations.
It all began when, shortly, before commencements of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, announced that Wednesday, November 24, 2021, was the Chief of Staff, Professor Gambari’s birthday.
President Buhari congratulated Gambari on his attainment of 77 years of age and, jocularly, said: “You are still going strong, congratulations,” while the cabinet members present laughed and wished the professor good birthday wishes.
And, without any doubt, Gambari deserves all. He is an intellectual who likes to share his knowledge and he contributed hugely to the process of providing intellectual direction to the Buhari-led administration.
Of no one knows the contributions made by Gambari to the stability of the administration better than the president and the members of his cabinet who, probably, as they wished him good birthday wishes might, individually, be saying ‘you have given us something that we cannot express in any way, a new time has come for you and you have the chance to continue spreading your knowledge, we wish you happiness as you celebrate your birthday.’
Professor Gambari joined the Buhari-led administration as Chief of Staff about two years ago, following the demise of the then holder of the office, Abba Kyari.
Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, CFR, OCORT, a scholar-diplomat, is the Founder/Chairman of the Board of Directors of Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD).
The Centre is a non-governmental think-tank on research and policy studies on conflict prevention and resolution as well as democratisation and development in Africa. The SCDDD, like the government of Buhari, seeks to promote the evolution of Africa into a prosperous, politically stable and globally respected continent which is motivated by the culture of good governance.
Professor Gambari has had an illustrious career, spanning academia, government and international diplomacy, culminating with his appointment as the first United Nations Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa (1999-2005).
In that capacity, he worked closely with heads of government, key policymakers as well as institutions in the continent to develop the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Before this time, Professor Gambari had served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Military Government led by the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari in the 1980s and went on to serve as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Described as an accomplished academic, Professor Gambari has taught at the City University of New York, the State University of New York at Albany and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and served as a visiting professor at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore, Maryland.
He is widely published in Nigerian and international scholarly journals and has written several books on Nigerian foreign policy.