Civil Society Forum to launch AfCFTA consultative dialogue framework

africa tradeThe Civil Society Forum will meet during the AU Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger that is taking place to celebrate the entry into force of the AfCFTA agreement and to launch the operational phase of AfCFTA Market, which includes launching the AfCFTA consultative dialogue framework

Dr Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said, “We are entering the most critical phase of creating the AfCFTA – implementation. This space for civil society to be engaged in the shaping of the AfCFTA implementation process is vital for the AfCFTA to deliver for the people it is supposed to, the average men and women on the street.”

The Civil Society Forum is set to attract 70 participants to be drawn from African Civil Society Organisations, Civil Society umbrella organisations dealing with trade issues and members of the AU ECOSOC. The focus will be on trade priorities of African countries and participants will consider central themes including the equitable geographical representation of the African Union, women and youth.

The Forum will also develop the knowledge and expertise of all stakeholders on priority trade issues related to the AfCFTA; improve regular information flow on trade issues to major stakeholders and suggest a framework for the establishment of the AfCFTA National Committees; improve coordination among relevant government ministries and agencies including through clear mandates and assigning of responsibilities; improve the participation opportunities for stakeholders in the work programme of the AfCFTA and strengthen the culture of dialogue and inclusiveness.

The AUC Department of Trade and Industry organised the first annual AfCFTA Stakeholders Forum in Dakar in November 2018 where a good representation of African Stakeholders took part and committed to engage Member States in taking action for ratification and implementation of the AfCFTA. Prior to that, the Department took the opportunity to dialogue with the African Civil Society through a number of smaller meetings hosted by civil society organisations or the DTI itself. All these dialogues have proved useful in obtaining feedback and views of a diverse range of civil society organisations.

Once all 55 countries have joined, the African continental free trade area aims to cover around 1.2bn people and more than US$3 trillion in GDP.

What’s next for the continental agreement

The ninth edition of the flagship Assessing Regional Integration in Africa report (ARIA IX) argues that AfCFTA’s success will be measured largely by its ability to actually change lives, reduce poverty and contribute to economic development in Africa.

The report was launched on 6 July 2019 during the African Business Forum in Niamey, Niger.

ARIA IX notes that traditional investment treaties predominate on the continent, with major repercussions for the policy and regulatory space available to policymakers. It holds, however, that the AfCFTA investment protocol represents an unparalleled opportunity for AU member states to revamp the investment policy landscape.

According to the report, ratification of the AfCFTA, which went into force on 30 May 2019, must be followed by effective implementation and that implementation will be more effective if national AfCFTA committees are created by country trade ministries.

Looking ahead, the report considers e-commerce and integration in a digitising Africa, and how the digital economy can interact with the AfCFTA and trade in Africa.

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