Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – 27 May 2019 – The African Union Commission(AUC) in partnership with the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), organized a key Stakeholder Dialogue on Continental Trade and Strengthening Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This was on the margins of CoDA’s Sixteenth Board Meeting which took place the following day. The purpose of the Stakeholder Dialogue was, among others, to enhance stakeholder engagement on the implementation of the AfCFTA and increase participation opportunities for multiple stakeholders in the work programme of the AfCFTA. In addition to this, the dialogue was held in accordance with the outcomes of the 31st Ordinary Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government held on 1-2 July in Nouakchott, Mauritania, where the Assembly mandated the AUC to “organize a Civil Society Forum and a Private Sector Forum preceding the July 2019 Summit in Niamey, Niger in order to enhance stakeholder engagement on the implementation of the AfCFTA. The Dialogue was also aimed at building the knowledge and expertise of all stakeholders on the priority trade issues of the AfCFTA among other objectives. It brought together participants from African policy makers, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African Business Leaders, Business Member Organizations (BMOs) and others.
The Chair of the Board of Directors for CoDA, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria launched the event by welcoming all participants and reaffirming CoDA’s full support to the advancement of this agenda as well as the AU in general. “It is in this spirit of advancing the continent’s development that we; CoDA, have continually worked as a special initiative of the African Union to effectively expand its space for dialogue on pertinent African issues and the AfCFTA is arguably one of the most pertinent issues currently” said the Chair. He continued on this, stating that the financial welfare of the African people and the clear benefits of the AfCFTA upon its implementation to this effect cannot be overemphasized. He expressed on a positive note that, “given CoDA’s comparative advantage and focus in convening such dialogues, we were pleased to work closely with the Commission in this area”. In his conclusion, he urged all who were present to commit to delivering actionable proposals at the necessary levels on this issue. Proposals which the AUC, RECs and other relevant sectors could put into effect towards efficiently implementing this very vital continental agreement.
In his opening remarks, the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC, H.E. Thomas Kwesi Quartey highlighted the need for all African stakeholders to support the growth and implementation of the AfCFTA agreement. He further stressed that it has taken Africa more than 50 years to move ahead with something that unites the continent through the AfCFTA. In this regard, he called upon all Africans to play their vital roles in delivering a fully functional free trade area. He added that “the prospects are great; but will not come by themselves. We will need to ensure peace and security, infrastructure and other areas are adequately present to succeed in this endeavor”. The Deputy Chairperson concluded by urging CoDA to continue its commitment to the Commission saying that since CoDA was part of getting the AfCFTA on track, it should also play a role in the implementation.
The AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, H.E. Albert M. Muchanga echoed this sentiment in his presentation. He added that the AUC would like through these consultations, to get stakeholders views towards strengthening the implementation of the AfCFTA and making it as efficient as it can be. He further highlighted the fact that the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA (expected to enter into force on 30th May 2019), would soon have 54 signatories out of the 55 AU Member States, and currently has 25 ratifications. He gave an overview of the benefits of the agreement saying that the AfCFTA could boost intra-African trade from its current level of 16% to 52% by 2022. He went on to outline specific challenges and opportunities posed by the AfCFTA, which will create more trade than it diverts and generate significant welfare gains for the majority of State Parties.
The one-day Dialogue delivered numerous outcomes which were taken on by the Department of Trade & Industry of the AUC going forward. These include the clear need for private sector involvement in all stages of the AfCFTA processes to ensure smooth operationalization, implementation and monitoring of the AfCFTA; the need for the empowerment of the RECs in order to allow them drive the AfCFTA processes within their respective regions including working with the AUC on achieving the goals of universal signature, ratification and domestication of the AfCFTA Agreement; as well as the understanding by AU Member States and all African stakeholders to promote ‘Made in Africa’ products.