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Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) Economic Justice Network (EJN)

Regional Strategy Meeting on

Hong Kong Trade Ministerial Conference Outcomes: Implications for Poverty Reduction in SADC

Date: 6-7 April 2006, Gauteng, South Africa

Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN), Economic Justice Network (EJN)

To what extent are the outcomes of Hong Kong contributing to poverty reduction efforts in SADC?

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Introduction and Context

Sub-Saharan Africa's share of global trade continues to be on a free-fall. The market share of these countries has declined from about five percent in the 1970s to less than two percent today. This is mainly attributed to the fact that Africa's participation in global trade remains confined to being a net exporters of raw materials and a largest importer of finished commodities. As a result of low international demand, prices of commodities have plummeted drastically during the past five years, threatening the livelihoods of several millions of people on the continent. As revenues continue to decline, demands for the SADC countries to meet their social and economic obligations for their citizenry also continue to rise. Poverty, unemployment, crime, inequality and HIV/Aid are rife. There are still more than 50% of the population in SADC living below US$ 1 a day.

For most of the countries in SADC region, they have continued to pursue anti-poverty strategies with the aim of meeting the MDGs by 2015. There are also increased efforts by SADC countries to boost their intra and inter-Africa trade to enhance their productive base. However, it still remains a big challenge for these countries to not only strengthen their regional trading relationships but to a large extent ascertain how the world global trading rules by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) impacts on their poverty reduction efforts.

The WTO has long been mandated to play a role in redressing such trade distortions and anomalies by putting in place trading rules that would contribute to the development of member countries. The 6th WTO Ministerial Conference took place in Hong Kong, China, during 13-18th December, 2005. The conference coined under the theme "Development Round" culminated into a Ministerial Declaration as one key outcomes of the Meeting.

Since the Meeting, there have been mixed reactions on this outcome document from different stakeholders. Some have said the outcome of meeting was modest, while others label it as a complete failure. It is clear that there are still quite a lot of challenges and issues that remain unresolved on the outcome document of the WTO Ministerial Conference. Clearly, these issues have major implications for Africa's development and poverty reduction efforts.

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