By Spy Uganda
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, has challenged African leaders to prioritise unrestricted trade with one another to save the continent from the burden of foreign aid.
Tayebwa made the observations on Wednesday, 19 July 2023 while speaking during discussions on the sub topic on African Continental Free Trade Area implementation at the 18th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC) in Cameroon.
He illustrated that whereas elite Africans criticise neocolonialism, several African governments have introduced foreign stockholders to usurp investment opportunities on the continent while undermining and ignoring natives with the same capability.
Tayebwa also opined that trade, especially intra-African trade is the only instrument that African countries must embrace to liberate the continent from the burden of exploitation by foreign powers.
“As Africa, trade not aid will liberate us – and for the trade you start with your neighbour – intra-Africa trade. Many governments in Africa introduce investors who come with US$1 million in investment but later claim investments worth US$100 million.
When someone of colour comes to any African government, he will easily see the President of the country but an African investor will find it difficult because he does not look rich. This is a problem,” Tayebwa said.
According to Tayebwa, intra-African trade can only be smoothly facilitated by travel and free movement of goods and services. He expressed concern over the fact that African governments impose unnecessary travel restrictions which continue to hinder the achievement of a united Africa.
“It is very absurd that an African can travel to Singapore or Malaysia, which are top economies of the world without visa restrictions but that cannot happen between African countries owing to stringent travel limitations. What are we protecting from each other, poverty?” Tayebwa questioned.
He also decried the unfavourable travel conditions in African countries, for instance his flight from Uganda to Cameroon, which he says is a distance of 2,039 kilometres (1,435 miles) but took over 20 hours instead of three hours, considering an airplane at an average speed of 560 miles per hour.
“I used over 20 hours to fly from Uganda to Cameroon yet at with that same time, I would have gone to Brussels and the Netherlands and back to Uganda. The problem is that in Africa, we look at each other as competitors and not as a partner, can we go back to our regional blocs?” he said.
Africans, he said, look at each other as competitors and not partners since each country is operating an airline despite heavy losses incurred and advocated for the revamping of regional blocs such as the Economic Commission of West African States, the East African Community, and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa among others, to advance Africa’s aviation industry.
The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a flagship project of the AU championed in 2012 and commenced operations in 2021 with the purpose of facilitating intra-African trade and boosting the continent’s positioning on the global market to actualise Africa’s Agenda 2063.
AfCFTA is anticipated to create a single continental market with a combined Gross Domestic Product of US$3.4 trillion that will benefit its population of over 1.3 billion people on the continent.
Uganda and 26 other African countries out of the 55 on the continent have ratified the AfCFTA Instrument.
Relatedly, in an earlier presentation, Tayebwa revealed that Uganda will host the first carbon neutral conference on the continent in January 2024.
The Deputy Speaker implored the members to research more on workable solutions to challenges that arise due to climate change like the heat waves, drought and famine that continue to ravage Africa.
Tayebwa queried the contribution of Africa to carbon emissions, saying that Africa produces the least carbon yet suffers the most effects.
“Honourable colleagues, as we welcome you to Uganda in January 2024 for the CSPOC, you will experience something different. We are going to measure your carbon footprint with the ticket you use, the paper work involved in the preparation of your journey, and then together we shall try to offset this by planting trees and restoring wetlands,” he said.
He also underscored the role of the legislature in contributing to a carbon free Uganda by enacting the Climate Change Act, 2021 and detailed Uganda’s intervention in climate change mitigation measures such as the ratification of the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol.