Later today Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell will partly pre-empt Peter Lilley’s policy group on global poverty by proposing an Africa-wide free trade zone. Mr Mitchell will highlight the walls of protectionism that divide one African economy from another – often making it harder for them to trade with each other than with western nations:
"While North America and Europe have been getting richer through trade, Africa has been left standing at the touchline. The world has lifted more people out of poverty in the past fifty years that at any point in human history – but Africa is the continent that is being left behind. The lack of intra-African trade is a missed opportunity. Africa’s barriers are seriously undermining the continent’s prospects for development. They are preventing specialisation between African nations, hindering productivity growth, and clogging up Africa’s wealth creation engine."
According to ePolitix.com Mr Mitchell will note that average sub-Saharan tariffs stand at 17.7% compared to an OECD average of just 3.9%. He will describe tariffs that some African nations impose on medicines as "killer tariffs".
During the leadership election David Cameron called for a focus on tackling killer diseases and protecting property rights within international development policy. More recently the Tory leader spoke to Oxfam. In addition to confirming the Tory aspiration to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid by 2013, Mr Cameron promised ‘aid vouchers’ that would ensure poor communities could bypass corrupt governments and transact directly with development agencies.
The free trade idea that Mr Mitchell will advance today is in tune with the vision of the influential Globalisation Institute. GI’s Director General Alex Singleton has written about the need for an intellectual revolution in Conservative development policy. Mr Singleton has highlighted the importance of microcredits and an infrastructure that is more accommodating to entrepreneurs.
It will be interesting to see what Bob Geldof makes of the new Tory emphasis…