Pan-Africanist Ruto should push continental trade, payment system

Saturday June 10 2023
william ruto

President William Ruto make his remarks during the African private sector dialogue conference on the African Continental free trade area at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya on May 29, 2023. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU |NM


It feels good to hear our fellow East African, Kenya’s president William Ruto, urging all central (and commercial) banks on the continent to sign up onto the Pan-African Payments and Settlements System, PAPSS, to “liberate themselves from reliance on the dollar”.

If he took the call further than the formal address made at a recent conference in Nairobi and phoned each of his 53 counterparts on embracing PAPSS (launched nearly two years ago by Afreximbank), then Africa could be onto something big.

It would indeed be wonderful for Africa to have a payments system applicable in all its countries while the US dollar and Chinese yuan camps fight for supremacy.

Africans don’t have to be drawn, again, into other wars. After World War II, we were drawn into the Cold War, then in the 1970s Africans were even “required” to boycott two Olympiads —Montreal and Moscow — to amuse the Cold War parties and are currently expected to take a side in some war being fought in eastern Europe.

See why President Ruto’s call should be taken seriously and urgently?

So, let Brother Bill of Nairobi make a personal follow-up on the PAPSS — which many Africans have not yet even heard about — and show keen interest on the desk charged with promoting the payments system at the African Union, of course observing protocols.
But even more important and urgent is increasing and actively promoting intra-African trade, otherwise there will be nothing to pay for using PAPPS.


Ruto’s presidency is remembered to have started on a high afro-trade note, when he flagged off a consignment of Kenyan tea to Ghana under a trade expediting system of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) arrangement. It is also noteworthy that the AfCFTA really got fired up during the period when Rwandan President Paul Kagame was AU chairperson. A presidential interest, therefore, gives impetus to a continental initiative.

Actually, President Ruto’s proposal is quite possible. The Euro also started off as a payments and settlement unit in European banks launched on January 1, 1999, before actual currency notes and coins released exactly three years later. In the interim, there was ongoing sensitisation of the European public about the upcoming currency.

The beauty of PAPSS is that Africa does not need to re-invent the wheel, the AU’s relevant agencies just need to closely review what the Euro went through.

Now, PAPSS enthusiast William Ruto must avoid being seen as drinking wine while preaching water. Charity begins at home and Brother Bill of Nairobi should be seen to ferociously break down the non-tariff barriers that are starting to make the East African Community look like a small joke.

If Brother Bill tapped into the conversations of the Kenyan business executives in Uganda — and they are not few — he would know how frustrated they are with their home government over the NTBs erected against the goods they produce in Uganda. The Kenyans in Uganda are not whispering – they are telling whoever cares to hear about it.

Ugandans recently watched in surprise as Kenyans in Uganda enthusiastically voted at their Kampala High Commission — and results show whom they voted for most. He should listen to them.

Dr Ruto and his 53 peers should work harder to increase trade on the continent that has the world’s fastest growing market. As Africa grows economically, it will, over the next couple of decades, be a market for a billion units each of certain basic industrial products that are taken for granted on other continents: A billion computers, a billion phones, a billion cars, a billion washing machines, name it!

And what is more, all the inputs required for making these products lie shallow in African soils. Setting up industries to process them will be viable if Africans trade among themselves.

'Ndugu' Ruto has four-to-nine years to use his office to crusade for PAPSS and AfCFTA. Even if some Africa “unlikers” punish him for it, he would become an immortalised luminary like Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara and a few others.