UNCTAD says Africa may lose out in globalization
Regional-Tunisia-Africa, Economics, 3/31/2000
UNCTAD secretary-general Rubens Recupero has alarmed that dangers are looming over Africa due to globalization.
"Of all continents, Africa is the most at risk to lose out in the globalization game," Recupero warned.
On his first visit after the agency's 10th conference held in February in Bangkok after the World Trade Organization's summit failure in Seattle, Recupero made the remarks at a news conference Tuesday afternoon to end a two- day visit to Tunisia.
As globalization gradually reduced or eradicated barriers protecting national economies, it exposed them to competition from countries much more prepared.
This was especially felt in the case of fragile economies, he added, hinting that the situation of Africa was a case of conscience for UNCTAD.
"Africa is a very serious case, very acute. Our organization is the focal point in the UN system with major responsibility when it comes to the least developed countries (LDCs)," he explained.
Out of the world's 48 LDCs, 33 are in sub-Saharan Africa.
"A special effort must be made for these countries," he added.
Recupero announced that, in May, UNCTAD would hold a third major UN conference on LDCs in cooperation with the EU in Brussels in order to "adopt a development strategies for those countries."
Speaking about UNCTAD's projects for Africa, Recupero said the situation of African countries called for multifaceted actions.
"One of the major actions" to be undertaken is to help them adequately prepare for (multilateral commercial) negotiations by building their capacities in that area, "which requires a lot of technical skill," he added.
However, in the case of Africa, their is another dimension, which is even more serious. "It is not enough to be a good negotiator, but there must be something to negotiate," he explained.
In that respect, developing countries fall in two categories: those which produce enough but are faced with barriers to have access to markets, and those which, in addition to these obstacles, have problems of supply, namely, not much to offer on the market, whether in terms of products or services.
Out of 50 African countries, about 45 depend on two or three raw materials for 70 percent of their exports, namely oil, coffee and cocoa, which are not much subject to negotiation, but rather to the law of supply and demand, Recupero noted.
He said that his visit to Tunisia was aimed at "showing our appreciation of the progress made by this country in terms of development and the success of its foreign trade."
Recupero added that Tunisia's foreign trade accounts for 40 percent of its GNP, without altering the priority given to education and the development of human resources.
Finally, he said that UNCTAD is planning to hold a symposium in Tunis in October on "regional economic integration of Arab countries."
The symposium would be a prelude to the setting up of a pan-Arab free trade area, aimed helping Arab countries to better prepare for future trade negotiations, Recupero said.
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