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Building the Capacity to Benefit From Trade

Excerpts from an address by United States Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick

Nairobi, February 14, 2002

Nelson Mandela – a truly heroic figure of the 20th Century – has pointed out that as African leaders were waging their battles against colonialism, they were distracted from another enemy that could be equally oppressive: poverty.

One of Africa’s challenges in the 21st Century, said Mandela, will be "for the continent to focus energies and resources on shaping its own development." This struggle, he has said, is being led by "a new generation of African leaders, capable men and women who are not prepared to accept as inevitable the current condition under which the ordinary African lives."

In 1990, the International Monetary Fund classified 75 percent of African countries as operating "restrictive" trade regimes; none were classified as "open." Today, the IMF deems only 14 percent of Africa’s trade regimes "restrictive," and 43 percent are "open."

A few years ago, President Mbeki urged his fellow African leaders to "insert ourselves into the international debate about the issues of globalization and its impact on the lives of the people and make our voice heard." As the largest single regional grouping within the WTO, African nations can utilize it to accelerate their integration with the global economy, while easing the occasional stresses of doing so.

African governments took this approach at the WTO Ministerial meeting in Doha this past November, playing a key role in its success. [The meeting] also stressed the critical need to provide African nations with the tools and training to help them participate more fully in the global trading system and reap the full benefits of trade liberalization.

This is a top priority for the United States. Over the past three years, the United States has deployed $192 million toward trade-related capacity-building assistance for sub-Saharan African countries. This money is being devoted to a host of projects, including the training of trade negotiators and assisting African governments in the drafting and implementation of economic and regulatory reforms.

But there is much more to be done – by countries and the international financial institutions. A new generation of leaders has new ideas for the new Africa. Nelson Mandela reflects my hopes when he said that, "Africa’s position in the world today will depend on what Africa does. . . . In the end, that is why we do remain confident in our determination that we are at the dawn of the African century."