Do African countries benefit from membership at WTO?


When you get into an organization you hope to get something out of it. You hope to make a change in the organization itself and within you. The World Trade Organization was established on 1st January 1995 and it currently has 162 member states. It usually holds Ministerial Conferences every 2 years and has currently gel 9 conferences between 1996 and 2013. In the conferences a lot is discussed regarding what the organization wants to achieve for its member states and especially the least developed countries. African countries have a lot to gain from this because they have now been given a bigger platform to trade with developed countries.

The WTO 10th ministerial conference will be held in Kenya next week. We look at how Africa and specifically how Kenya is going to benefit from the WTO.

world trade organization ministerial conference nairobi

1. Technology

Through their Information Technology Agreement they want to lower all taxes and tariffs on information technology products to zero for their signatories. In Africa, only 2 countries are signatories of the Agreement. 200 technology products are to incur zero tariffs and the items range from medical equipment, GPS devices, video game consoles etc.

Technology manufacturers such as General Electric, Microsoft, Intel among others are companies that are set to benefit.
The WTO also has an E-Campus where member countries can learn about International trade law and other trade-related matters. This enables people from member countries learn how to conduct trade across international lines.

2. Health

In the 2001 ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar support of public health and promotion of access to medicines for all was discussed and approved by all countries. This means that medicine should be readily available to all sick people and member countries should make it easier for people to access public health facilities.

Medical equipment like MRI machines do not attract any tariffs and this makes it easier for member countries especially those in Africa to get their hands on the equipment. This makes it easier for doctors to run tests and come up with conclusive diagnosis for certain ailments.

3. Trade

In 2005 they discussed duty free, tariff-free access to goods from the Least Developed Countries. Most of the Least Developed Countries are African countries. This means that the Least Developed Countries can trade with other countries without having huge tariffs on the goods they buy. This brings access to a variety goods to their citizens.

4. Agriculture

Agriculture is one of the main topics discussed in the ministerial conferences. They want to make sure that agriculture and trade of agricultural products is well taken care of so as to alleviate poverty on countries that are mainly supported by agriculture and also to make it easier to get these agricultural products to other countries that need them. No country can survive without agriculture because most of what we eat and clothe ourselves in come from agricultural produce.

One of the key things would be lowered import tariffs and agricultural subsidies so as to make it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets.

Developed countries would also need to abolish hard import quotas on agricultural products from the developing world. They would only be allowed to charge tariffs on amount of agricultural imports exceeding specific limits.

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