Reputed to be one of the largest markets for global trade, Africa, ironically, is challenged by inadequate infrastructure, with over 600 million people living without electricity.
Consequently, the international trade regulator and facilitator, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) must mobilise the various interest groups to promote equitable global trade relations and energy access.
The Executive Director, Sahara Group Kola Adesina, spoke on ‘Redirecting the World Trade Organisation’ at the virtual 2021 Horasis global meeting on Friday.
Adesina said deploying multilateral engagements would help circumvent the status quo that has made global trade relations “somewhat lopsided.” Horasis is one of the foremost annual meetings of the world’s leading decision makers from business, government and civil society.
“The WTO must ensure that multilateralism guides its decision making processes. The countries of the world are not all on same pedestal. There should be consideration for the poor countries. “The WTO should create a system where countries could come together to create a united front to handle the issues the world is facing,” he said.
Multilateral strategies, Adesina explained, would create “elastic solutions” that could be adapted, with respect to the unique challenges and opportunities across global trade blocs.
While sustainability should be the ultimate driver of development, Adesina argued that concessions need to be in place to effectively manage the current challenges of less developed continents.
“Africa still suffers from the twin challenge of access versus affordability of electricity. We all need each other to solve the global challenges we face as individual countries and the world.
“A strong commitment is needed to maintain open and free trade; to keep open borders and to help the poorest countries, particularly least developed countries, survive the economic shock created by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
On access to power in Africa, Adesina said the WTO should explore the possibility of collaborating with the various stakeholders to accelerate the pace of technology needed to make alternative power cheaper and more accessible to the consumers.
“Africa is home to 17 percent of the world’s population, but accounts for just 4 percent of global power supply investment.
“On a per capita basis, power supply investment in Africa ranks among the lowest in the world, while lack of energy costs the continent over $110billion annually.
“The Environmental Impact Analysis of conventional power sources should be the focal point of conversations with African Presidents as well as key political and business leaders, to ensure their support and agree on a collective and sustainable solution template,” Adesina said.
The Horasis session noted that with protectionism gaining steam globally, the WTO would need to reinforce its influence on stabilizing global trade negotiations.
Experts expect that the WTO, under the leadership of the new Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, wouspearhead effective reforms that would make the organization play a strategic role in promoting equity and transparency in the quest for global sustainable development.