What the EU-Africa Free Trade Area Means to Africans

Amina Mohammed and Steinmeier
Amb. Amina Mohammed, Kenyan CS in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Minister of Foreign Affairs.

You might have heard the EU was going to ban Kenyan products from this year (Read: Trade Restrictions Might Lock Out Kenya From Trading With the EU)

Looking from the outside, you would expect the Kenyan and other African governments to sign the Freihandelsabkommen (Free Trade Area Agreement). Not signing would mean farmers in Kenya can’t sell their products to the EU, that would subsequently increase the number of unemployed and reduce the amount of taxes collected by the country.

On a closer look however, these consequences would be the result of signing the agreement.

The Free Trade Area Agreement being pushed by the EU is a simple neocolonial agreement. The agreement is meant for”middle class” African countries. The agreement that pretends to be “fully for development” aims to increase the cheap EU products in these countries; and remove all forms of tariffs and import quotas.

What this means to the lay man is, the EU will be allowed to export their cheap junk while importing our raw materials without paying any taxes for it. This will reduce the prices they buy our raw materials and they can start taking the horse meat and cheap chicken to Africa which will be cheaper to buy than the “kienyeji” chicken produced in Kenya. Won’t this kill the Kenyan market? Which farmer will be willing to continue growing tea and coffee and get no money from it? Most farmers are currently complaining about the prices for those produces, imagine when those drop further? And those that rely on the Kenyan market, will they be able to survive when the market is saturated with cheap chicken from the EU?

The Kenyan textile industry was killed by the “mtumba” market a long time ago, should we sit back and see our agricultural industry die as well?

Kibaki’s government refused to sign it and Uhuru’s government had earlier refused, but it seems they eventually gave in after the EU imposed import tariffs on multiple Kenyan products effective from 1 October.

Andrew Mold, the UN’s economic analyst for east Africa, said he sees the African economy as being threatened by the agreement in the long-term.

“The African countries cannot compete with an economy like Germany’s. As a result, free trade and EU imports endanger existing industries, and future industries do not even materialise because they are exposed to competition from the EU,” Mold commented.

“Economic negotiations should not destroy what has been built up on the other side in the Development Ministry”, the German government’s Africa Commissioner Günter Nooke commented.

It seems everyone is in agreement that this treaty does more harm than good, but why it was created or why pressure was put on Kenya to sign remains a mystery. Why increase unemployment and kill industries in a country then come up with “Entwicklungszusammenarbeit” project to “help” them? I’m sure they could help by actually staying out of our markets, but hey, the damage is already done.



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