Tuesday, September 20, 2011

There is an alternative to the relationship of dependency between Southern Africa and the EU

The EU- Southern Africa relations date back to the dark ages of slavery and colonialism. Sort of rider-horse relations with the latter always coming second-best.
The early 1970s ushered in a new era of a relationship that was based on some degree of mutual respect and equality (Lomé Agreement). Southern African countries were full of hope because Lomé granted them trade and economic preferences that had the potential to catapult them to the path of development.
But then came the WTO and the Most Favoured Nation Principle. Southern African countries were forced to abandon Lomé preferences and enter into a reciprocal trade relationship (EPA) with the “much powerful EU”. The Southern African countries are not keen on this. They feel that they do not have necessary capacity to negotiate a good EPA for their people. They fear that EPAs would “Tie” them to the EU forever and endanger their much needed policy space to develop. Surprisingly they have gone on to sign the interim EPAs and they are on track to sign the final EPAs soon.
But why should Southern African countries enter into trade negotiations they are not sure will benefit the people?
The answer is “Dependency”.  Virtually all of them are economically and financially dependent on the EU. As a result, they fear opposing it, in case that support maybe withdrawn. Apparently the EU uses this fear to control their less-fortunate partners. History shows that this has always been the case.
But there is something called “Hope”. The EU can also use it to gain control if it so wishes. That hope is needed in Southern Africa; not “Fear”.

Dr. Medicine Masiiwa is a research fellow with the Institute of Development Studies, University of Zimbabwe. His areas of interest are agricultural development, marketing, international trade and regional integration.

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