Building capacity to help Africa trade better

3rd Cycle of the CFTA Technical Working Groups


3rd Cycle of the CFTA Technical Working Groups

3rd Cycle of the CFTA Technical Working Groups
Photo credit: Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations

Opening remarks by Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, Chairman of the Negotiating Forum for the Continental Free Trade Area (NF-CFTA) and Chairman of the Technical Working Group for Trade in Services (TWG-TiS)

I am honoured to welcome you all and call to order this 3rd Cycle of the Technical Working Groups, providing inputs to the Negotiating Forum for the CFTA.

On your behalf, I have the honour to thank the Government of South Africa for hosting us here in Durban and pay tribute to the leadership of this great country.

I am equally pleased to acknowledge and pay tribute to the African Union Commission (AUC); providing indispensable support as we move to conclude the CFTA Negotiations no later than the end of this year.

At this stage, our work is more important than ever. Concluding the negotiations for the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is a strategic and urgent economic and trade policy necessity for addressing the development challenges that face Africa.

The CFTA is required for the structural transformation of Africa to industrialize, diversify and modernize Continent’s economy. If we design it well, as a platform and trigger for reforms and market opening, the CFTA will spur a sustained growth dynamic that will create employment for millions of Africans entering the job market. This the rational and key choice for Africa. There is no other option. We must trigger a reform dynamic for sustained growth, based on the the CFTA that creates an integrated single market for trade in goods and services. If we don’t, we risk serious decline as a Continent, falling further behind other regions in the global economy with serious consequences.

The Strategic Importance of the CFTA for our individual economies and the place of Africa in the global economy is greater than ever before.

This is why our leadership – collective and individual – shall count.

As we start, the 3rd Cycle of the TWG, after the successful foundational work at the First Cycle in Kigali, and progress made at the Second Cycle in Nairobi, I am reasonably confident that we shall consolidate and build further here in Durban. We must be dutiful in Durban and understand the high stakes.

As we start prepare to start, let me also underline a number of technical points that relate to the state-of-play; and, progress we have made so far.

I can report to this opening session that progress was made at the 6th Session of the CFTA Negotiating Forum in Niger. Although there is considerable technical work to be done, we received very useful guidance from Niamey in a number of key areas.

For instance, usefully, for the Technical Working Group on Legal and Institutional Affairs (LIA), We agreed in Niamey on the titular provision, now settled as the “Treaty Establishing the Continental Free Trade Area”, although further technical work remains to identify the “Covered Agreements” for the CFTA Treaty.

In Niamey, the Negotiating Forum that here in we finalize work on the identification of priority sectors for Trade in Services that would contribute to the modernization of the Continental economy. This would provide the basis for offers to be made by States Parties based on a Positive List.

A question that has hung over the CFTA Negotiations is African population growth and associated pressures, in relation to GDP growth.

Concluding the CFTA would provide a boost for accelerated growth and modernization of Africa’s economy and increasing employment opportunities for the millions of African entering the job market. There is a population crisis impacting poverty reduction and the prosperity levels in African economies. Currently, 1 billion people, approximately, or 13 per cent of the world’s population, live in sub-Saharan Africa today. John May and Hans Groth, have sounded a timely alarm in their recent book: ‘Africa’s Population: In Search of a Demographic Dividend’). According to recent projections by the UN Population Division, 4 billion people (or 36 per cent of the world’s population) could live in the Africa region by 2100. In other words, this projection would more than double the current population of the Continent, standing at approximately 1.2 billion.

As trade negotiators, we have a collective obligation to situate the CFTA negotiations in a broader economic context. The overriding obligation for us, as Trade Negotiators, is for job creation and higher levels of prosperity to mitigate and overcome the pressures of the population crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund, Africa would require between 18m and 20m new jobs – approximately the size of the populations of either Mali or Niger, over the next 25 years, to respond to the job pressures, on the Continent. These are the stakes for us, as negotiators, in the CFTA.

In conclusion, although we must get the CFTA right and not gloss over technical details, we must now approach it with a greater sense of urgency of the pressures of population growth and jobs that face Africa.

It is in this context that I have the honour to open this Third Cycle of the Technical Working Groups for the CFTA Negotiations.


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