By Kampala Post Reporter
MUNYONYO. President Yoweri Museveni has urged African leaders and all African people to strategically conceptualise and conceive the importance of continental integration as a vital component for her prosperity and future of its people.
In a keynote address on Wednseday, on the issue of tackling barriers to intra-Africa trade and investment, during the second day of AFRICA NOW Summit at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala, the attributed the slow integration process of the African continent to the failure by African people to realise that integration is for the befit of all Africans. He noted that failure to integrate will go against the prosperity of the continent.
“The political and intellectual class of Africans need to know that failure to integrate will go against the prosperity of the African continent bearing in mind that it’s the only way to guarantee the continent’s survival. Failure by Africa to integrate will lead to further marginalisation of the continent or at worst the enslavement of her people because of failure to secure their destiny,” he said.
The President further told the Summit that integration propels the prosperity of nations because it eases market flow of goods and services by removing all barriers to trade an investment adding that every African must appreciate market access as a major driving factor to economic development and prosperity of nations.
Mr Museveni’s remarks come at a time Rwanda has closed its border with Uganda curtailing free movement of goods and passengers doing business both in Rwanda and Uganda.
In fact, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Sam Kutesa, in a statement issued yesterday noted that “Rwanda has introduced an export permit system for those that intend to export goods to Uganda.”
“This is a technical and non-tariff barrier to trade, to which there has been no successful applicant. This is a trade embargo on bilateral trade with Uganda,” the minister noted.
Meanwhile, Mr Museveni said that although free movement of goods and people should be guaranteed among African states, it should never be abused.
“All Africans that are to enjoy that facility should be biometrically registered just for the sake of security. Secondly, all governments to undertake by treaty never to use that freedom of movement of people, never to ever operate behind the back of the host countries. The freedom of movement of people should only be for the transparent activities of trade and for nothing else,” said Mr Museveni.
Citing the example of the United States of America and Europe, Mr. Museveni said that although those areas developed on account of, among others, acquisition of slave labour and natural resources from colonies in Africa, lack of sufficient markets for the many products that their industries were producing at the time led to the great economic depression of 1929 forcing them to re-think on their economic way of life.
He, therefore, wondered why the African continent could not see the importance of integration and having a single bargaining voice when developed economies, like China and India with 1.3 billion people each, realised it and opened their markets to the world, an act that has seen their economies prosper in a short period.
“If China and India, with 1.3 billion people each, have realised that they can’t prosper on their own and opened their economies to trade with the world, how can Uganda expect to prosper on her own with a 40 million people market,” he observed.
He also reminded told Summit about the former British colonies that integrated to form the current USA making it the greatest nation it is today and the former Spanish colonies of South and Central America who refused to integrate and the dire economic situation they are in today. He, therefore, stressed that Africa’s integration was a matter that needed no further discussion as it’s operationalization would go a long way to remove unnecessary taxes, facilitate the movement of goods, services, capital and labour.
Regarding free continental movement in Africa, President Museveni said that the National Resistance Movement fully supports free entry of Africans to Uganda as long as all countries have biometrically registered their citizens for security reasons and sign a treaty not to act behind any other country’s back.
He singled out lack of sufficient infrastructure such as roads, railways and water transport to link African countries, as one major barrier to the integration of the continent. He, therefore, stressed the need by African countries to budget and develop infrastructure to ease the integration process. He also emphasized the need to work on the quality and safety of the products for the African market, creation of high standard of goods on the continent that are acceptable globally.
Regarding the talk of indebtedness of the African continent to China, President Museveni who described China as a positive ally led by revolutionary people today, said that China can only be a problem to Africa on account of Africa’s internal weakness. He added that if Africa is properly organized internally, China is African continent’s best ally today and in the future. He urged the youth of Africa to know this and organise themselves to guarantee their destiny.
On the continued export of labour, especially to the Middle East, the President attributed it to unemployment in the country. He, however, expressed optimism that with the current economic growth, many youths will find employment in the country and that the trend of labour export will be halted.