Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Global Launch Event: Global Alliance of Special Economic Zones (GASEZ), 17 May 2022


Global Launch Event: Global Alliance of Special Economic Zones (GASEZ), 17 May 2022

Global Launch Event: Global Alliance of Special Economic Zones (GASEZ), 17 May 2022
Photo credit: IAPS

New global alliance of special economic zones to boost development

The Global Alliance of Special Economic Zones (GASEZ) was launched on May 17, 2022, with eight founding members:

Africa Economic Zones Organization (AEZO)

Free Trade Zones Association of the Americas (AZFA)

Green Partnership for Industrial Parks of China (GPIPC)

International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP)

National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones, United States of America (NAFTZ)

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

World Free and Special Economic Zones Federation (FEMOZA)

World Free Zones Organization (World FZO)

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are playing an important role in industrial development and trade as over 7 000 zones are already established in 145 different economies. They create direct employment for 100 million people and this number is rapidly growing. In addition to job creation, SEZs attract investment and improve productive capacity. The webinar highlighted the importance of promoting a new generation of zones, and the role that the alliance could play to support modernization of SEZs in the areas of environmental, social and governance. The new generation zones also require adaptation to new digital advancements. UNCTAD also encourages SEZs to adjust to the changing global policy environment. This platform will be useful to solve those problems with various expertise and collaboration. The GASEZ will benefit stakeholders such as the governments, the enterprises, and the workers.

The core functions of GASEZ include:

  1. Facilitating cross-border and cross-industry collaboration between SEZs in trade and investment promotion for sustainable development.

  2. Collective policy advocacy for sound enabling frameworks for SEZs at the national, regional and global levels.

  3. Promoting awareness of the contributions of SEZs to sustainable development.

  4. Peer learning through the exchange of experiences, best practices and lessons learned among SEZs.

  5. Undertaking joint technical cooperation programmes for modernizing SEZs and promoting SDG model zones.

Source: GASEZ, 2022

As some zones have underperformed or faced social and environmental dilemmas, this grouping will aim to improve SEZs contribution to SDGs. It will also ensure their efficiency and economic performance on a regional, national and global scale. Contributing to Agenda 2030 and the SDGs is one of the main goals of the associations. New generation zones focus on supporting the SDGs putting sustainability higher on the scale of priorities. The GASEZ will develop joint cooperation programs for modernising SEZs and implementing SDGs model zones. The platform can also tackle problems of profitability by anticipating the needs of SEZs, integrating the zones in their ecosystem and improving the day-to-day work. Sharing knowledge throughout this alliance will give the zones a better understanding of the stakeholders’ positions and needs. It also means new zones do not need to start everything from scratch as strategy models and success stories will be presented by this network. Lessons learned and best practices will be shared in peer learning modalities among the zones. Awareness programmes for the importance of SDGs also take part of the GASEZ mandate. This has been well explained by the representative of the World Free Zones Organization (World FZO).

The growing presence of women workers in the zones has been identified as an important matter for the alliance. This newly developed platform aims to promote gender inclusive zones with guidance for policymakers on the of creation of economic opportunities. Frameworks will be developed for regional, national, and global levels. For example, Mr. Gustavo González de Vega from the Free Trade Association of the Americas (AZFA) suggested building universities and specialised curriculums in the zones to offer education opportunities to answer the higher-skilled jobs required by the enterprises.

Rethinking supply chains was also discussed. The consequences of this alliance could lead to shorter and closer supply chains, which can improve regional economies, especially in Africa. Industrial upgrading in the zones can also help contour the vulnerabilities of the different value chains, such as the lack of intra-African trade demand.

The GASEZ first annual conference will be held in Jamaica on June 13, 2022. The mandate will be further discussed, as well as the objectives for this first year. The collaboration between the zones under the alliance will then begin.

Watch the online launch event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJIaiyX4qzo

About the Author(s)

Audrey Bessette (volunteer)

Audrey Bessette holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Sherbrooke, Canada. She is currently completing a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Laval University, specializing in social and environmental responsibility for organizations. Her research experience also extends to the relation between international trade law and the fashion supply chains. 

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