UNCTAD 14 Consensus: Africa Must Sharpen Negotiation Skills

Published on 26th July 2016

The 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) came to a close with the adoption of two documents that will guide UNCTAD’s mandate for the next four years. They include the Nairobi Maafikiano and Nairobi Azimio. The Nairobi Maafikiano, focuses on how UNCTAD should help its members achieve an inclusive and equitable global economic environment for trade and development. The ‘Nairobi Azimio’ is a political declaration representing a broad expression of the social and economic state of the world. Specifically, the conference launched a new e-trade initiative, the first UN statistical report on the SDG indicators, a multi-donor trust fund on trade and productive capacity, a roadmap on fisheries subsidies and touched on non-tariff measures, debt, and illicit financial flows.

Some quarters, especially a large section of the Civil Society view UNCTAD as a talk shop and agency that has increased poverty, hunger, and inequality in the world, hence the need for economic models that spur inclusive and equitable global economic growth for trade and development. How the consensus will benefit Africa will depend on Africa’s input and how the continent follows it up. Africa has fared badly on negotiations in the past, making most agreements in trade to be skewed in favour of Europe and other stronger economies. This is partly because Africa has not invested in capacity to negotiate trade agreements that stand the test of time, and has fronted joyriding delegations. Poorly negotiated contracts are partly responsible for countries not benefiting from trade pacts.

Africa must set concrete goals in its interaction with the international community and lay down a negotiation strategy. Surrendering this task to the World Bank Group which has hosted several training workshops to enable Africa build negotiation capacity is ironic.

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