By Nevson Mpofu*
Africa has been challenged to have collective vision and spearhead African Regional Integration and solidarity. This, Albert Muchanga , Commissioner of Trade and Industry notes is vital especially during this time of covid-19 . He further notes that there are implications that have been brought by covid-19 of which we learn through experiences.
Speaking Virtually to audio- visually connected invited, linked and connected to technology delegates Albert said African countries must learn lessons from covid-19 . This he adds, covid-19 is an experience of a life time to take note of when in Trade. HE Albert Muchanga gave a tirade speech at the TRALAC 2020 Summit in Cape Town on the 1st day. The discussion centered on Trade and doing Business in the covid- 19 era which started on Monday 20 September and is ending Tuesday 21 September.
The Summit is dubbed creating One African Market. It has other important speakers from the African Region. H.E Albert Muchanga , African Continental Free Trade Area Commissioner of Trade and Industry added initially that Africa is grappling with challenges and difficulties due to covid-19 pandemic . He has warned the continent to remain vigilant in the future, keep watch an eye to diseases, disasters, climate change and displacement of people.
” Africa has had challenges and difficulties but this time around, we are challenged by Health issues. The covid-19 pandemic has done us damage to the whole World of-course but as Africa let us stand up and fight whole-heartedly. The continent is grappling with tight challenges and problems that need to be solved. We need to have solutions to problems and such challenges we face as a continent.
”Let us be ready in the future to fight against other disasters like climate-change, diseases and disasters we face. These have over-time affected us time and again. We need to have devices and get responses. Off-course big economies have been affected as well but let us in the future have the devices to fight such challenges, craft polies like we did to lock-down and take more controlled action.”
”This corona-virus does not recognize and respect national jurisdiction and boundaries. It neither respects border controls, so we are in a challenge especially looking at Trade in the region. That is why we called for this Summit. Let us use policies effectively by having National Emergency Powers to lock-down, close boarders, restrict movements” .
Albert Muchanga believes that Trade played a role in improving access to essential goods and services since start of covid-19 . He adds that World Trade Organization Members have used trade measures to expedite access to critical medical goods and services as part of their responses to covid-19 pandemic.
”Trade played a role in improving access to essential goods and services since the start of covid-19 . WTO Members have used trade measures to expedite access to critical medical goods and services as part of their response to covid-19 pandemic. Trade played role as well in improving on the situation of shortages of medical personal and protective equipment. Production and Trade have expanded to meet un-paralleled spike in demand.”
HE Muchanga reveals that data has it that 41 countries which trade in medical goods grew by 38,7% in the 1st half of 202 although sourcing remains a challenge in the developing World. The Report describes wide Trade related measures Members in WTO employed from temporary reductions or deferral of duties, taxes and charges on covid-19 critical medical supplies to simplified customs procedures and boarder clearance.
The Report looks at International related measures to facilitate innovation and access to covid-19 related Technologies such as the one used to prevent it. Secondly, use of compulsory Government licenses to foster access to relevant patent data-bases and steps to make it easy to exchange clinical trial data. WTO Members acted as well to facilitate Tele-Medicine and International movement of Health Workers so that prevention, treatment, care and support could be easy at any cost.
Lessons Learnt From Covid-19 in Africa ..
Countries in the Region have been advised by H.E Muchanga to exercise National Public Health Care so that people’ rights in terms of Health are observed. He said countries must take advantage of the mile -stone taken by WTO in facilitating trade in medicines which have helped millions of people who needed help, care and support.
Regional Secretariates must play role in designing guidelines, procedures for joint responses and harmonized boarder control measures in times of need. Times of disasters must be prepared for in the future so that lives can be saved. Saving lives means as well keeping others safe from new outbreaks, keeping budgets undisturbed and avoiding un-necessary spending by countries.
H.E Muchanga reiterated on the need to come up with many ideas meant to make life easy to manage during disasters. Apart from the spirit of solidarity he digs into issues of practical demonstration on Regional Integration arrangements which he emphasizes must be used to facilitate joint responses ..
”Let us as Africa learn from the experiences. Let us be prepared to take head-on on issues that affect us every day. These are disasters, diseases and climate-change that still up to now affects us as Africa. Let us embrace the spirit of intensive regional integration rather than only looking at spirit of solidarity. This helps us in Regional Integration. There must be arrangements used to facilitate joint responses in Africa.”
Africa and the World is one home according to HE Muchanga . He said Africa and the World is Interdependent. This means then that Africa must work with the World to bring an Integration that brings home openness to free trade that benefits Africa, boosts growth and fosters development.
”Africa and the World is interdependent. We have deliberations then to make it clear that we work with the World in Trade to develop the Industry. We Import and export. We get from outside that we do not have. We give them resources, they make for us technology, we learn as well, we grow on and on that way.
”We have a deliberation to boost Intra-African Trade through Regional Integration that bring us together as one Africa, one continent in fight against poverty. In-Order to win on this, we, come up with trade arrangements to meet challenges related to disasters that affect us every-day. These are related to climate-change and environmental disasters’’.
African Continental Free Trade Area has plans in hand to spear-head economic growth and foster economic development in the African Region. Under new plans there are indications that Trade in Goods and Services under AFCFTA rules start in early 2021. AFCFTA deliberates on State Parties to take concerted effort on commitments to look at ..
-Domestic follow-up action technical assistance
-Development Partners and Support
-Deeper Integration ..
Utilization of Regional Economic Communities remains vital to serve as building blocks – Article 5 of AFCFTA Agreement states this explicitly. There are new arrangements and mechanisms put in place to move Africa forward despite challenges faced. Negotiations Phase 2 Protocols of AFCFTA to be launched relates to Investments, Competition Policy and Intellectual Property Rights. Protocol on e-commerce is to be added to list of protocols to be adopted during Phase 3 of AFCFTA negotiations ..
-The Continent is compelled to be in abreast with ability and technology to convert to African Trade and Industrial development looking at the following concluding points.
-Trade and Economic growth promotion
*Nevson Mpofu a seasoned Zimbabwean Journalist is an Advanced Sustainable Development Student working as a Lecturer in the field with students studying Cambridge University, City and Guilds and ABMA Curricular in Zimbabwe ..