A government-backed street march in Senegal’s capital has demonstrated the strength of feeling among ordinary Africans against new trade deals with Europe.
Dakar is among the most hostile to new economic partnership agreements – or ‘EPAs’.
Senegalese Parliament member Khadiem Tabet said: “President Wade asked us to signal our refusal to sign the EPA – because it is not in our favour. That is why we have organised such a historic demonstration, to symbolise our disagreement.”
After years of negotiations, the European Union had hoped to sign EPAs with mainly poor former colonies before preferential trade terms expired on December 31.
Most failed to reach a full deal — in spite of the World Trade Organisation’s ruling that the old arrangements were illegal.
Trade ministers from the Africa Union will meet before the end of February to hammer out a common position for the world’s poorest continent.
Some African leaders have been critical of the proposed agreements, saying they were being coerced into signing deals that would be damaging to local economies.
Critics of the interim deals say they threaten the very regional integration which the EPAs are meant to promote.