tralac Annual Conference 2019
Africa’s Integration Agenda – from Aspirations to Pragmatic Implementation
tralac’s Annual Conference was held in Nairobi on 21-22 March 2019. More than 100 policymakers, traders and other professionals from across the continent participated. tralac also co-hosted, with Kenya’s Export Promotion Council, a workshop on ‘Current and emerging trade issues in Kenya’ in advance of the Conference.
The packed Conference agenda provided a wealth of information and generated informed and engaging discussion among participants. Download the pdf Final Programme (634 KB) .
Key themes to emerge from the Conference were:
The importance of reading and understanding the AfCFTA (and other trade agreement) texts as agreed and considering the impact this would have on the implementation and enforcement of the Agreement.
The opportunity and value in taking new approaches in Africa and at the global level – including on industrial development, special and differential treatment and institutional arrangements for trade governance, especially in the context of global uncertainty.
The need to consider distributional issues as a fundamental part of the trade policy for development narrative, including integrating women, youth, the LGBTQI community, providing flexibilities and support for lesser developed parts of the continent and ensuring the integrity of the revenue base.
In his opening remarks, tralac Board Chair, Mr George Lipimile, welcomed participants to the Conference, noting that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a milestone towards Africa’s broader economic integration and development strategy at a challenging time in global trade governance.
Ms Beatrice Chaytor, Senior Expert at the African Union Trade and Industry Department, delivered the opening address on behalf of the African Union’s Director for Trade and Industry, Ms Treasure Maphanga, putting the AfCFTA in its historical and institutional context and highlighting the steps and challenges towards implementation of the agreement.
Discussions opened by highlighting that the AfCFTA is a bold and very important initiative for Africa, but that Africa’s track record on implementation of its regional agreements is not impressive. Implementation is primarily the responsibility of member states, as they give effect to the commitments and obligations they have undertaken. The private sector keenly awaits the new opportunities associated with the AfCFTA. Participants discussed the impending entry into force of the agreement, noting that only what is completed would enter into force following the 22nd ratification and that many critical issues including tariff schedules and rules of origin were outstanding.
Sessions over the two days focused on the legal and institutional arrangements for the AfCFTA (with presentations from Gerhard Erasmus, tralac Associate, and Beatrice Chaytor and Brian Mureverwi, from the African Union); the importance of trade facilitation (Frank Matseart of Trademark East Africa and Michael Lawrence of South Africa’s National Clothing Retail Federation and tralac associate), the role the AfCFTA can play in the industrialisation agenda (Patrick Low, Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong), the role of data for understanding trade and financial flows (Melvin Ayogu, University of Cape Town) and the role of Central Banks in regulating capital flows (Paul Oluikpe, Central Bank of Nigeria).
The tralac Gala Dinner was held following day one the Conference, creating an opportunity for networking among participants. Ms Florie Liser, President of the Corporate Council for Africa delivered a keynote address highlighting the importance of the relationship between Africa and the United States and discussing the post-AGOA agenda.
tralac also launched its Women in Trade Governance Network at the Conference. Three champions of women in trade governance – Justice Kasango of the COMESA Court of Justice, Beatrice Chaytor of the African Union Commission and Maria Immanuel from the Namibian President’s Office joined Trudi Hartzenberg to launch the network. Justice Kasango reflected on the legal and enforcement barriers to women’s economic advancement, Ms Immanuel discussed the importance of including youth and women advocating for women and Ms Chaytor shared the African Union’s work on women in trade and her experience as a trade negotiator.
The Conference concluded with a series of digital poster presentations from tralac alumni. In a first for tralac, and as a step towards our goal to be a paperless organisation, posters were not printed, but rather loaded on participants smartphones by scanning QR codes. Poster presentations covered investment facilitation, trade data challenges, women in governance and trade, SMEs and the AfCFTA, export potential of the EAC and trade facilitation in west and central Africa.
The following presentations delivered during the Conference are available to download:
Trudi Hartzenberg and Gerhard Erasmus, tralac
Gerhard Erasmus, tralac Associate
Beatrice Chaytor, African Union Commission
Brian Mureverwi, African Union Commission
Frank Matsaert, TradeMark East Africa
Patrick Low, University of Hong Kong (HKU)
Patrick Low, HKU
Gerhard Erasmus, tralac
Melvin Ayogu, GSB
Paul Oluikpe, Central Bank of Nigeria
This is what some of the Conference participants had to say:
‘With over 40 conferences attended worldwide, tralac’s Annual conference rates amongst top 5 conferences I have taken part in. It was a blend of academicians, researchers and experts with field experiences giving the audience a mastery on understanding the concept and challenges in implementation as well as success stories on trade-related issues. Coming from Africa and beyond, presentations centered on trending issues like Brexit and Africa, RECs and regional integration, the AfCFTA and the TFTA which brought more light on how a rules based trade governance system can bring about share prosperity.’
‘tralac has been improving over the years and it is now a serious force in providing policy advice and interventions, particularly in the African trade arena. The participation of the West African experts in their various fields provides an entry point into the ECOWAS.’
‘tralac has positioned itself over the years as a key capacity building organisation to bridge the human capacity gap on trade policy issues in Africa. Thanks to tralac we (2018 alumni) have built a network of young Africans in policy position where we share our experiences and best practices and find ease in formulating new positions on national and regional trade discussion fora.’
The conference has ‘expanded my knowledge and understanding of how trade can bring about development, job creation, global value chains, trade facilitation and a deeper understanding of the institutional structure and progress on the AfCFTA.’
The conference provided an ‘excellent update on status quo and path forward on the AfCFTA. Great updates on many relevant issues in a short space of time.’
‘The level of presentations were of a high-quality standards and provided feedback for not only tralac researchers but to all other participants.’