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Cornell academic focuses on international trade in inaugural lecture at the UFS
2013-11-12

 
Prof Muna Ndulo
Photo: Stephen Collett
12 November 2013

Prof Muna Ndulo, Professor at the Cornell Law School, delivered his inaugural lecture as Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Mercantile Law at the University of the Free State (UFS). The topic of his lecture was: Facilitating regional and world trade through international trade.

With this topic, Prof Ndulo said that trade is a recognised contributor to the Growth Domestic Product of countries and its role can be used to reduce global poverty and inequality. “Although Africa’s GDP is 5-6% on average, with a positive increase in direct foreign investments, its meaningful participation in world trade has been decimal,” he said.

Trade between African countries is 12%, which is the lowest in the world. This is in comparison to intercontinental trade in European states (72%), North America (48%), Asia (52%) and 26% in Latin America. The EU and USA are Africa’s key export markets. High transport costs, import substitution, intra-regional transactions, conflict of rules and bills of exchange remain as challenges. There are also no common standards with regards to the development of manpower as an important factor in production.

Prof Ndulo suggested solutions which Africa can use to achieve harmonisation. This includes the introduction of normative rules designed in a framework of a treaty. A modern law approach could be used to develop legislation and ensure uniformity; and lastly, the formulation of commercial customs and practice. “Harmonisation demands a high level of expertise and quality research,” said Prof Ndulo.

He added: “When legislation is developed, it must resemble the needs of our trade laws in order to maximise benefits.”

He concluded that, for harmonisation to be achieved, the political environment must play a major role in regional and world trade.

Prof Elizabeth Snyman-Van Deventer, Head of the Department of Mercantile Law, made sincere closing remarks on how much we as a continent have become an enemy of our own self by not having trade relationships among ourselves as Africans. Prof Snyman urged those in the legal fraternity to be part of the harmonisation of trade laws and eliminate the barriers by improving legislation.

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