In terms of General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT) principles and the efforts of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), nations have been urged to eliminate or reduce trade barriers. Yet the inequality in the global trading regime has had an impact on developing countries. The majority of WTO members are developing countries, mostly from Africa. This article contributes to the debate on whether trade liberalization helps to alleviate poverty and promote development, with a focus on Africa. Through a detailed review of literature and documents relating to trade barriers and trade liberalization, a critical qualitative assessment is undertaken of their impact for developing countries, with special reference to Africa. In doing so, the impact of the efforts of the WTO as a forum for international trade negotiations, is examined and the challenges with respect to development in Africa are highlighted. The conclusions to the study point out that free trade is a pre-requisite for growth in Africa, but does not guarantee such growth and development; that trade liberalization may not on its own necessarily lead to growth in Africa; and that there is a need for initiatives outside the WTO agreements, such as South-South, intra-Africa agreements, including regional trade agreements.
Key words: Trade barriers, trade liberalization, World Trade Organisation, development, developing countries, Africa, free trade, regionalism.
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