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 Dr.Yao Graham and Dr.Nii Moi Thompson @ launch of UNCTAD report
Dr.Yao Graham (left) and development economist Dr.Nii Moi Thompson (right) @ launch of UNCTAD report



Trade liberalization has not improved Africa’s export performance, says 2008 UNCTAD report



Dateline: September 15, 2008


The 2008 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report on Economic Development in Africa, titled, ‘Export Performance Following Trade Liberalisation: Some Patterns and Policy lessons ‘, has noted that despite the removal of ‘policy barriers considered to be the main impediments’ to Africa’s export performance, the situation has not improved.

The report which examines ‘Africa’s export performance after trade liberalization’ in order to draw lessons for use in the design of future development strategies’, argues that the level and composition of Africa’s exports have remained largely the same. Africa has actually lost grounds in world export markets.

Taking a look at Africa’s export performance over the last 25 years with the removal of trade barriers, the report concedes that there has been some improvement but this falls far short of expectations and ‘has been relative to the experience of other developing regions.’

Indeed, the much expected diversification to dynamic primary commodities and increase in manufacturing which would have meant stability and resistance to the ‘vagaries of international markets’, has not happened.

Worse still, Africa’s share of world exports has dwindled from six (6) percent in 1980 to a mere three (3) percent in 2007. The report also identifies ‘Africa’s weak supply response’, as a major factor responsible for Africa’s non-preparedness to take advantage of recent commodity booms.

For the first time in three decades, the report points out, many African countries have the rare opportunity to ‘accumulate financial resources which, if prudently used, could allow these countries to build a strong and diversified productive sector that is more responsive to export opportunities’.

Even if Africa is to gain from the current commodity price boom, the report cautions against a ‘false sense of prosperity’ as booms are cyclical and like many others the current one will not last very long.

 Again with the food crisis putting Africa’s import bill under severe strains, it is imperative for Africa, which until 25 years ago was a net food producer but has become a net food importer following the arbitrary trade liberalization of the last 30 years, to reconsider what happened to its agricultural production.

The report also provides the historical beginnings of trade liberalization in Africa, the reasons for it and the timing. It further provides an overview of current export performance by value, volume and composition.

Africa’s export performance in agriculture also comes under scrutiny as well as, ‘why Africa has failed to diversify into the manufacturing sector’. To rectify the situation, UNCTAD calls for Africa to ‘refocus its development priorities on structural transformation in order to increase the continent’s supply capacity and export response.’ 

The need to consider the issues of ‘productivity, competitiveness, market access and access to factors of production’ in agriculture and manufacturing are to be prioritized if Africa is to make some headway. 

It was time the report posits, African countries made ‘massive investments in productive and trading infrastructure’, increase productivity; make access to such factors of production as credit easy.







For further enquiries please contact: Joyce Ofori-Kwafo @ Third World Network Africa (TWN-Africa) on Tel: 021-511189/503669; Email:


To view pictures of the launch, kindly click here:

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We members of the National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) and victims of mining related human rights abuses across the country at a meeting from September 3-5th, 2008 in Accra Ghana convened to examine a Report of the State of Human Rights in Mining Communities in Ghana published by the Ghana Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), welcome the findings of the report and call for the urgent implementation of its recommendations to stop violence in mining and to protect the rights of all parties affected and or involved in mining.


In 2006, the National Coalition on Mining (NCOM) launched a national campaign to stop violence and human rights abuses in mining areas. As part of the campaign the Coalition submitted a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) calling for investigation into allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by mining companies, the police and the military against people living in communities affected by mining. The campaign was launched following an increase in alleged cases of human rights abuses perpetrated against members of local communities and small-scale artisanal miners or “galamseyers” in mining areas.


In response to the complaint including complaints submitted by individual victims of alleged human rights abuses, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice conducted what it described as a “systemic” investigation into alleged abuses of the social and economic rights of communities affected by mining. It listed some of its major findings as “inadequate   compensation for destroyed properties; unacceptable alternative livelihood projects; absence of effective channels of communications/consultations between companies and communities; excesses against galamseys; health problems attributed to mining; reckless spillage of cyanide; and unfulfilled promises of employment”.


The report concluded that “there is evidence of widespread violations of human rights of individual members of communities and communties’ collective rights in some mining areas in the country”. It proceeded to provide evidence of violation of individual and collective rights to include widespread pollution of water sources, deprivation and loss of livelihoods as well as excesses by state security agencies and the security contractors of mining companies.” The report noted that some of the excesses resulted in serious injuries and fatalities.


The findings of the Report vindicate several of the positions long held by the Coalition, local communities and several other advocacy organisations  regarding the destructive legacy of mining and the limited degree of its contribution to the national economy. The National Coalition and its allies have consistently argued that despite its potential as catalyst for social and economic development mining over the years, particularly that undertaken by transnational mining companies has tended to worsen the already social marginalisation of local communities, small-scale miners, and other social groups such as women, the elderly, the disabled and children. These groups suffer disproportionately from mining related dislocations. In particular, women have been victims of direct displacement from their productive economic activities by mining operations. They have also suffered gender discrimination and inequality from the little benefits accruing from mining.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric of corporate social responsibility projects, we have witnessed transnational mining companies and state regulatory institutions directly and indirectly supervise:

·        Massive destruction of the environment

·        Excessive deprivation of the national economy and citizens from accessing the full benefits of mineral resources 

·        Indiscriminate dislocation and displacement of local communities from their natural resources, in particular, land, water resources and cultural heritage

·        Increased violence and human rights abuses of people living in communities affected by mining as well as small-scale miners.


We wish to thank the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice for conducting such a painstaking investigation. We find the report and its recommendations as a wakeup call not only to the mining companies, the police, the military and mining sector regulatory institutions who have been in the centre of allegations of human rights violations but also all institutions of justice to their statutory responsibility in the protection and promotion of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of citizens.


The individuals who have suffered various degrees of injuries and pain are hoping to receive justice. In the light of this, the Coalition applauds the decision of the Commission to commence investigation into the individual complaints submitted to it. We hope the findings of the “systemic” investigation would inspire government and friends of justice to resource the Commission to carry out its statutory duty of investigation into these complaints.


The need

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Kindly find below the Declaration of the Eleventh session of the Africa Trade Network(ATN):





Declaration of 11 Annual Review and Strategy Meeting of Africa Trade Network, Accra Ghana, 25- 28, August 2008

The Africa Trade Network, the broadest, longest -standing network of African social, labour, women’s, faith-based, developmental, environmental, farmers, human rights and other organisations, dealing with the role and effects of international trade and trade agreements in relation to Africa’s needs and aspirations at local, national regional and continental levels, had its 11 Annual Review and Strategy meeting in Accra, Ghana, from 25 to 28 August.

We have, for many years, worked actively with civil society forces to engage with African and other developing country governments resisting the trade and investment liberalisation agenda of the more powerful governments. Such cooperation and coordination has contributed to the ability of African and other developing country governments to create effective alliances in the WTO to promote their development needs and demands, to expose the self-serving strategies and hypocrisies of the US and the EU, and to block their aggressive agendas. In this regard, we welcome the continued rejection by these governments of the anti-developmental content and orientation of the WTO’s Doha round.

Members of ATN have also been actively engaged with African governments and civil society forces on the proposed EU’s misleadingly entitled “Economic Partnership Agreements” with African (and Caribbean and Pacific) countries. We see clearly that these EPAs are not fundamentally concerned about African development but are designed to further the geo-economic aims of the ‘Global Europe’ strategy being pushed from Brussels in the interest of European corporations and capital.

We are therefore determined to Stop EPAs altogether. But, despite our active engagement with African governments, and the criticism and active opposition against these EPAs by many African governments -- both publicly and in private — the EU has managed to pressurize eighteen African governments into initialing IEPAs and committing to further negotiations on ‘Interim EPAs’. Most of these IEPAs are one-to-one engagements between the EU and individual African governments, while five countries are negotiating within one of the established African regions, namely the East African Community. Other African regions have, in the EPA negotiating processes, been divided and their coherence and very future imperiled.

At the same time, a larger number of African governments have not entered into these IEPAs. We commend all such resistant governments and urge them to remain steadfast. We commit ourselves to work with them and to actively engage with all the other African governments on the following terms and understandings:

1. The IEPAs were merely an emergency defensive measure taken at the end of 2007 under the undue pressure of the EU’s threat to disrupt exports from African (and other and Pacific) countries into the European market (with many LDC, who did not need to, even pressured to join).

2. These ‘interim EPAs’, initiated only as statements of intent under conditions of extreme pressures, cannot be accepted as being legally binding and can be challenged and blocked altogether on the basis of a number of legal instruments, such as the Vienna Convention on International Treaties.

3. The IEPA terms cannot be regarded as being set in stone. However, the mere removal of some of the most contentious issues – above all, the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause and the “standstill clause” prohibiting the flexible use by African governments of export duties and other support measures to their producers - will not alter the fundamentally anti-developmental import of the highly imbalanced nature of the tariff reduction ‘reciprocities’ demanded by the EU.

4. The so-called more “development friendly” insertions into IEPAs proposed by some African governments and NGOs, and others in Europe – such as modified rules of origin, and the removal of technical barriers to trade (TBTs) in the EU – may to some degree facilitate trade, but will also serve, more fundamentally, to reinforce the heavy trade orientation and dependence of Africa exporters on the EU market, and the traditional “supply role” of (primary commodities and raw materials by) African economies to the EU.

5. Similarly, the proposed provision of increased aid by the EU is supposedly to improve Africa’s “supply capacities” to be able to take advantage of the anticipated increased market access into the EU. However, in reality, the development and diversification of African productive capacities require a wide range of programs and policies, such as the strategic application of tariff and other instruments, that will be severely constrained within the proposed EPA terms

6. In parallel, the exclusion of some “sensitive products” and the proposals by some African governments and NGOs for slightly “longer time-frames” for the phasing- in of tariff liberalisation are also fundamentally misconceived because the changing needs of current and future products and production sectors within their countries cannot be definitively determined in advance, and policies in these regards must not be fixed in advance and as a priori commitments in an international treaty

7. In addition to the above, the most serious threat of all arises from the drive by the EU, and the seeming accommodations by some African governments, to extend the IEPAs into “full and comprehensive” EPAs, incorporating the EUs “new generation” demands for the opening up of African services and public tenders (so-called government procurement) to EU companies, and fixing the terms and rights of European investors and financial operators, together with other terms serving EU interests in Africa.

We urge African governments ? to re-unite in their respective regional communities, and to use broader African unity within and through the African Union to create a much stronger and determined resistance to the EU;

+ to act decisively on their own declarations that no agreements with the EU can take precedence over, or counter, their commitments to their own regional cooperation and integration aims and programs;

+ to firmly resist EU maneuvers in their current or future negotiations to draw them into full EPAs.

We also note and stress that it is most unwise and inappropriate for African governments to be entering into a far-reaching, long-term, fixed and highly questionable and contentions agreements with the EU, or any of the other powers and international forces, especially in the context of the current unstable and changing global conjuncture. This includes • international energy and food crises affecting African most seriously; • declining legitimacy of the IMF and WB and the WTO; • erosion and discrediting of the neoliberal paradigm • shifts in the global balance of power and the range of forces, especially in the South with which Africa can ally itself.

We commit ourselves to work with African governments in the quest to achieve more equitable relations with Europe that protect our sovereignty and autonomous development options.

We pledge to work with and support the movement of citizen’s groups in Africa against Europe’s self-serving EPA agenda, and to strengthen the demand on our governments to stand firmly together in the interests of our peoples and our countries, regions and the whole continent

We call on civil society organizations and other citizens groups in Europe and other parts of the world who are also resisting European free trade agreements to strengthen their active solidarity with our campaign to stop the EPAs.




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