Five east African countries have OK’d a trade deal with the European Union that will gradually open African markets.
Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi will be the African nations covered by the deal, BBC reports.
Despite giving European firms more access to their markets, some industries will still be protected from competition to prevent local businesses from going bankrupt.
Under the terms of the new deal, about a fifth of EAC trade would still be exempt from the requirement to lower customs duties.
Industrial products and agriculture are among the sectors that are to be given extra protection.
The EU said that negotiations would continue next year in an effort to have a more comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in place by 2009.
The EU used to have preferential trade deals with its 80 former colonies scattered among Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, but they were ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization, which gave a January 1, 2008 deadline to agree to new trade deals.
My internet and/or browser is under the weather today, so I can’t run down a list of the particulars regarding the EU/East African trade deal.
So, instead of our regularly scheduled program, I’ve got outtakes from interesting debate from 2005 regarding whether Africa needs the WTO.
Africans should just increase trade among themselves and remove trade and travel barriers among it's people and forget about help from the West, and finally we should stop exporting raw materials and start selling finished products.
As a Nigerian and an African, I don't expect much from the WTO, what I know for sure is that they will bring up policies that will make Africans poorer. Ghana sends cocoa to the developed world, then it comes back as chocolate, more expensive than the cocoa itself. This only makes the rich countries richer.
Victor Owo, Eket, Nigeria
Africa can expect negotiations that will help narrow down the gap of access to the world market, that is, fair trade rules that help the subsistence farmer to earn a reasonable payment from his little produce. Cotton, coffee and tobacco used to be grown in most parts of Uganda but as the prices went down, people resorted to growing pepper, sun flower and silk worms as well as rearing rabbits, now it is vanilla and rice. This instability in growing crops together with the set standards or quality of produce to be sold on to the world market will not allow Africa to compete in the global market.
Prossy Nannyombi, Uganda
While Africans blame others for unfair trading terms, countries like Colombia and Vietnam are silently taking Africa's share of the market for coffee and cocoa. African countries are no longer efficient enough to compete against other suppliers even if the trading terms were fairer. What next? Out source African farms to more efficient producers - including those from outside the continent.
Liban, Oromia, Ethiopia
What African countries need to do is to process more of their raw materials, trade more with other African countries and depend less on developed countries. Developed countries will neither leave their doors wide open nor surrender their economies.