Sierra Leone’s Minister of Trade and Industry has delivered a resounding keynote address on enhancing international trade of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and regional integration during the 5th meeting of the 1st session of the Preparatory Committee for the Fifth United Nations Conference on the LDCs held in New York on 27th May 2021.
Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy said the significance of such discourse cannot be more appropriate than now when LDCs are making upward mobility and transforming themselves out of the mindset of aid and shifting to promoting trade and development thereby enhancing economic growth, poverty alleviation and better living standards for its people.
He underscored that international development and global trade have gone through systemic changes which have brought to the fore, stronger economic cooperation that is underpinned by trade and investment.
“Significant progress has been made in trade facilitation, simplification of processes, time and cost, and the dismantling barriers to trade. This has led to shifting patterns of global trade and a new trade governance architecture. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, world exports grew yearly on average. At the same time, developing countries engaged more in global commerce, and trade among developing countries that is South-South and between developing and developed countries in the North-South steadily increased”, he said and adding that in 1990, South-South trade accounted for just 5 percent of global trade but today its accounts for roughly over 20 percent.
“The Question still looms as to where LDC’s fit in all of this and what has been done and what can we do? LDCs only account for 1.12% of global trade. Further integration into the global economy continues to be hampered by a range of supply-side constraints in these countries. Increasing foreign earnings by exporting higher value-added goods has proven to be difficult for most countries because of lack of access to technology and the challenge of complying with quality standards of developed countries”, he said and continued.
“Many LDCs are agrarian economies and dependent on one or two commodities for export earnings. Because LDCs have less diversified economies, they depend on a limited range of exports, often primary commodities. Economic diversification and economic empowerment are also essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals” he said adding that both objectives embodied the rationale behind the “Aid for Trade Initiative”.
“We have seen this pattern of progress in many developing countries bringing substantial reductions in extreme poverty. Mr Chairman, among other channels available to address the challenges faced by LDCs, e-commerce has the potential to open new avenues for economic and social development for these countries and to provide specific support for their graduation and beyond. E-commerce has changed how people, companies and even countries communicate, trade, network, process and manage information, carry out payments and manage data. E-commerce has also become a bridge between enterprises in small, isolated countries and even larger markets globally. It has enabled the establishment of subcontracting, joint ventures and alliances with companies that might have never cooperated before. E-commerce has also led to the emergence of new sectors in the economy, by creating new commodities, services, and business models. He concluded by encouraging LDCs to seize this unique opportunity to explore and benefit from this new method of doing business.