Bridge policy disconnect in services trade – UNCTAD Secretary General urges Africa

L-R: Prof Pat Utomi, Dr Patrick Osakwe and Mr Oluseyi Soremekun

L-R: Prof Pat Utomi, Dr Patrick Osakwe and Mr Oluseyi Soremekun

The Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Mukhisa Kituyi, has urged African leaders to bridge the policy disconnect of services trade in order to unlock the sector’s potential for growth and economic transformation of the African continent. “The impact of a continent-wide free trade area,’ he continued, ‘will only be meaningful for Africa if services are opened up in parallel with trade in goods. This is because services, such as transport and storage services, are necessary components of trade in goods.”

Represented by the Chief of Trade and Poverty Branch, UNCTAD Switzerland, Dr Patrick Osakwe, at the official launch of UNCTAD Economic Development in Africa Report (EDAR) 2015, hosted by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, Nigeria, the Secretary General added that the report found that many national development plans mention services trade as a vehicle for development but fail to link it to existing regional plans or regulation on services in the context of their regional economic communities.

Chief of Trade and Poverty Branch, UNCTAD, Dr Patrick Osakwe presents the Report

Chief of Trade and Poverty Branch, UNCTAD, Dr Patrick Osakwe presents the Report

The Report subtitled “Unlocking the potential of Africa’s services trade for growth and development”, recommends that services trade be adequately mainstreamed into national development plans; which requires that a policy formulation exercise be informed by country-wide consultations with all the major stakeholders. At regional level, the report notes that greater coherence could be achieved if a pan-African mechanism is established to allow for the continuous consultation and coordination of a regional agenda and concerns relating to services trade that arise within the regional economic communities and the African Union.

Speaking at the event, the Special Guest Honour, Professor Pat Utomi, said it was high time the world understood that economic growth in Africa was not oil-driven growth but services and trade. For the growth to reflect in the wellbeing and lifestyle of the people, he continued, there must be policy coherence at the national, regional and global levels as well as paying attention to services trade.

UNIC Lagos Officer-in-Charge, Oluseyi Soremekun addresses the audience

UNIC Lagos Officer-in-Charge, Oluseyi Soremekun addresses the audience

In his welcome address, the National Information Officer and Officer in Charge of UNIC Lagos, Mr Oluseyi Soremekun, reaffirmed the commitment of the Centre to disseminating publications by United Nations Agencies, Programmes and Funds to the Nigerian public. He noted that the UNCTAD EDAR 2015 would serve as a veritable resource for government economic policy planners, the private sector and the academia.

Contributing, the Director General of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Barrister Emmanuel Cobbam, urged captains of Industries and various governments to pay attention to the recommendations of the Report as a guide for economic planning.

In a goodwill message on the occasion, the Director of Partnership Development, Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Mr Bankole Adetola, representing the Permanent Secretary, disclosed that the Lagos State government desired a stronger partnership with UNCTAD and UNIC in order to have access to flagship UN publications and best practices around the world.