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    African Services Associations Meet


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2006

    © ITC/E. Barreto African services associations looked at ways to encourage inter-regional trade for their members in group discussions and bilateral meetings.

    Service sector associations representing thousands of firms from 13 African countries met with South African construction, transportation and financial services firms at a "Bridges Across Borders" event in Centurion, South Africa, in November 2006.

    Construction, transportation and financial services have good potential for regional cooperation and development, due to firms with export experience and business opportunities in new regional transport networks. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol in Transport shows the potential for growth, with ten transport corridors under way in the region. Firms in the three sectors represented at the event can "bundle" their services in bidding processes to make more competitive offers.

    In partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa, ITC convened the meeting to help African firms find new business partners in the region, build cooperation among service industry associations and identify challenges affecting growth in trade in services.

    Participating countries were Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia. Participants took part in at least 1,000 bilateral meetings during the event, with the aim of increasing cooperation to develop trade in services.

    Driving the economy

    Trade in services in Africa is growing fast. African exports of commercial services jumped 46% in two years, according to the World Trade Organization. Between 2003 and 2005, exports rose from $39 billion to $57 billion for transport, travel, business, professional and other services.

    Services are helping to drive the economy. ITC studies in the region show that services employ a third of the work force and are responsible for half the new jobs being created. Services also help produce and deliver manufactured goods.

    At the meeting, influential service sector associations and firms said that trade policies for construction, transportation and financial services urgently need to be harmonized to faciliate cross-border business. "Other barriers include limited access to finance, lack of systems to recognize credentials and weak telecommunications infrastructure," said Doreen Conrad, Chief of ITC's Trade in Services section.

    Remigius Makumbe, Executive Secretary of SADC, said the organization was committed to creating an enabling environment for regional trade and was making progress in fostering "intra-regional connectivity". Better cooperation among service associations would help reduce artificial barriers to trade in services, such as failure to harmonize and recognize professional credentials.

    The event's networking possibilities helped participants "develop a local knowledge base and build a regional foundation to sustainable economic growth and human development, one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals," said Stephen Browne, Deputy Executive Director of ITC.

    Also attending were embassy representatives from participating countries, the United Nations Development Programme, the African Development Bank and the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa.


    In early 2007, ITC will visit some SADC member countries to address concerns that these countries raised at the Bridges Across Borders meeting. ITC will also continue to advise them on building service coalitions and help increase service providers' participation in export development strategies.

    For more information, contactservices@intracen.org

    Contributors: Emmanuel Barreto, Doreen Conrad, Natalie Domeisen, Sandile Nqidi