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Canada-Africa Trade : A Platform for Prosperity

21 November 2018 at 18:23 | 3316 views

Canada-Africa Trade : A Platform for Prosperity

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade Diversification Omar Alghabra

Op-ed following his participation in the Africa Investment Forum
November 7–9, 2018, Johannesburg, South Africa

Canadians have heard a lot recently about the thriving and expanding market opportunities in Asia and the significance of North American trade to Canada’s prosperity. And both these statements are absolutely true. Many Canadians, however, might be surprised to learn that according to the International Monetary Fund, six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa, including Ethiopia, Cte d’Ivoire and Senegal.

With our dynamic and entrepreneurial African-Canadian community, longer term, strategic and more comprehensive engagement with Africa on trade is a compelling draw for Canada, and an important pillar in its trade diversification strategy. The UN Conference on Trade and Development states that African economies can expect a 20% increase in foreign direct investment in 2018, worth $50 billion. The opportunity this presents to Canadian businesses to build on our strong people-to-people ties is one of the many reasons I led a delegation of Canadian investors and development experts to the African Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, from November 7 to 9.

Rapid economic growth in the African markets is expected to double overall energy demand and triple electricity demand by 2030. Canadian companies, with their outstanding technological innovations and reputation for energy efficiency, effective energy storage, smart grids and clean electricity, are well placed to capitalize on these opportunities and can leverage international climate finance funds to do so. Canada is committed to helping realize the region’s huge economic potential. And the presence of Canadian expertise in Africa supports economic growth that benefits everyone.

The Africa Investment Forum, hosted by the African Development Bank to bring together governments, investors, project developers and the private sector to sign deals, provided an excellent platform for Canada to highlight its expertise in energy, infrastructure, project financing and agriculture. When Canada looks to Africa, it sees opportunities for partnership. The trade and development nexus in Africa offers Canadian companies the space to develop projects in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. And as the fourth-largest shareholder in the African Development Bank, Canada is well placed to ensure good projects move forward—those that support women’s economic empowerment and jobs for youth, both in Africa and at home.

While at the forum, I was proud to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Canada’s new Development Finance Institute (FinDev) and the African Development Bank. This collaboration toward Africa’s sustainable industrialization through private sector investments with a development impact focus will target climate action, job creation and empowering women.
This agenda is driven by Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, which seeks to reduce extreme poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world. Gender equality is at the heart of Canada’s international assistance and its policies for promoting trade and investment.

We know that empowering women, youth and small and medium-sized enterprises creates positive change and benefits the overall economy. We also know through research organizations and institutions, such as the McKinsey Global Institute, that advancing women’s equality can add some US$12 trillion, or 11%, to global economic growth by 2025, and that is probably a conservative estimate.
Canada recognizes and encourages the efforts of many African countries as they work toward gender equality, including Zambia, which leads international efforts on child, early and forced marriage; Rwanda, which has over 60% female parliamentarians; and Ethiopia, with its genderequal cabinet, its first woman president and its first woman supreme court chief justice.

Canada, along with Sierra Leone and Iceland, was proud to champion the Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment (December 2017), endorsed by over 120 World Trade Organization members and observers. The declaration seeks to remove barriers to women’s economic empowerment and increase their participation in international trade. Canada sponsored the first workshop under the declaration earlier this year at the WTO on genderbased analysis of trade policies.

But there is more work to do to achieve the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, including eliminating poverty and creating decent work and economic growth.

As Canada knows well, regional integration is key to accelerating job and wealth creation in Africa—outcomes that can only help to foster economic opportunities for women and girls. We are proud to support the Africa Trade Policy Centre, which aims to strengthen African trade policy capacity and was instrumental in advancing the African Continental Free Trade Area negotiation process. Seven African countries have already ratified this historic agreement, and Canada stands ready to support the rest of the continent in putting the agreement into force.

To further help Canadian companies compete and succeed in this thriving region, the Canadian government has negotiated foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPAs) with Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania. These agreements encourage increased bilateral investments between our countries by helping to reduce risk and by increasing investor confidence in our respective markets. We continue to advance FIPA negotiations with a number of other African countries.

Like the African continent, Canada is surrounded by oceans and is rich in coasts, waterways and fisheries. Healthy oceans, seas and waterways promote economic, social and environmental well-being and play an important role in the global climate system. They support communities, jobs and livelihoods, food security, human health, biodiversity, economic prosperity and ways of life.

We are excited to be co-hosting the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference together with Kenya at the end of November in Nairobi. The conference provides a unique opportunity for business and government leaders from around the world to come together and collaborate on how to best build and profit from the blue economy.

This we know: trade and investment build a vibrant economy, and trade diversification is the engine that drives growth. From Cape Breton to Cape Town, we embrace this truth whether we are in Canada or on the African continent.