Building capacity to help Africa trade better

2017 African Prosperity Conference on Business and the Continental Free Trade Area


2017 African Prosperity Conference on Business and the Continental Free Trade Area

2017 African Prosperity Conference on Business and the Continental Free Trade Area
Photo credit: Dominic Chavez | World Bank

Private sector will succeed through implementation of CFTA – Ghana Trade Minister

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen has assured that the private sector in the country and Africa will succeed if the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is pushed through.

According to the minister, the implementation of Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is a major step in consolidating the integration agenda for Africa and that is what his government believes will make businesses in the country succeed.

“Today, we are sowing the seeds of what I believe ultimately would determine whether this enterprise will succeed or not which is the participation of the private sector in Africa in the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).”

Speaking at the 2017 African Prosperity Conference on the theme “The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) – Exploring Possibilities for Business Engagement across Africa” at the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City in Accra on September 12, Mr. Kyerematen further said although there may be challenges with the implementation of the CFTA amidst doubts, as a continent, we have no choice than to go ahead with it because it would be of significant help for Ghana and Africa.

“In actual fact, whether there will be challenges or not as a continent we have no choice but to move ahead with this continental agenda... First, I’m not sure that there is any evidence of any country in the world that has achieved significant growth without taking advantage of the regional market. All the countries that have achieved superlative growth whether it is in Asia or is in North America you would find eventually that they’ve achieved that growth partly based on the advantage they’ve taken on the regional market.

“Also there is evidence that many of these countries have actually used regional markets as a stepping stone into the global market and so we should not be surprised if we find that most of the world’s advanced trading nations are also part of the most integrated regional economies,” he explained.

The Continental Free Trade Agreement is a key African initiative aiming to urgently take forward the continent’s long-standing integration and development agenda.

The CFTA represents a significant opportunity to redress the vulnerabilities of Africa’s economies within the global economic order that have been manifest in and deepened by the imbalances of the World Trade Organisation as well as other multilateral and bilateral trade agreements.

The establishment of the CFTA aims to create a continental market for goods and services in Africa covering over a billion people and a GDP of over USD 3 trillion.

2017 Conference on Business and the Continental Free Trade Area

Organised by the UN Economic Commission for Africa/African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), and the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry


The African Union (AU) summit formally launched negotiations for a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) at its meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa on 15 June, which became a priority initiative under the AU’s Agenda 2063. The latter has laid out a vision for the trajectory of African development during the next five decades.

The signing of the Continental Free Trade Area agreement targeted for December 2017 is expected to set Africa on a new development path. There is a huge amount to be gained from a free trade area for Africa. Compared with the other regions of the world, intra-African trade is the lowest of any region in the world at 17,6%. Intra-regional trade in Europe is 60%. Within the association of Southeast Asian Nations it is 30% and in South America 21%.

Africa has more to gain than lose in creating the CFTA, which will rival trade agreements like the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Africa already has the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) signed in June 2015 combining three largest trading blocs: The East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The three regional economic communities have a combined GDP in excess of 1.3 trillion dollars and a population of 565 million. However, the TFTA, which has been signed by 16 of the 26 member countries, is yet to be ratified to come into force.

With the support of the UNECA/ATPC, this conference aims to raise the awareness of business leaders and operators from across the region about the CFTA, to apprise them about the on-going negotiation on CFTA and to further strengthen the engagement of the private sector to accelerate the implementation of the agreement once negotiated. 

The conference will take place in Accra, Ghana, on 12th and 13th September, 2017.

Basis for the Conference

In spite of the importance that business groups attach to the creation of a single continental market for goods and services, this conference will be the first organized on CFTA from the private sector perspective. The initiative launched by UNECA/ATPC to support the private sector to work with governments, the AU Commission, UN and international organizations on boosting intra-African cooperation and integration was long overdue. By bringing the private sector in as a core partner in the formation of a continental free trade area, this conference is opening up a world of new possibilities to create opportunities for businesses to exploit and bring about benefits to ordinary citizens of Africa.

This two-day conference will focus on the role of business in supporting and promoting the CFTA. The discussion will be a great opportunity to examine the progress made in the negotiation of the CFTA will provide a strong base for engaging the private sector in the implementation of the agreement.


The African Union has set the ambitious target of completing the continental free trade on goods and services (CFTA) negotiations in 2017. This ambitious continental free trade pact, which will build on the COMESA-EAC-SADC tri-partite free trade agreement, is expected to ‘yield significant benefits’ and will ‘foster economic growth, equitable development, and support integration through trade liberalization, industrialization and infrastructure development’.

Obviously the private sector is expected to feature prominently in the CFTA negotiations.  In particular, the trade talks, among other things, will likely focus on harmonization of sanitary and phytosanitary or SPS measures and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) standards and the elimination of non-tariff barriers (NTBs).

The Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry working with the African Union Commission, the UNECA/Trade Policy Center and other AUC partners works towards promoting effective trade and investment policies under the CFTA. The 2017 African Chambers and business associations conference will have plenary as well as break-out sessions.

The main four key objectives of the Conference are to: 

  • Provide an opportunity for regional and sub-regional organizations to share progress to date and the remaining gaps of their CFTA negotiations with the private sector;

  • Examine ways of engaging the private sector on a regular and substantive basis;

  • Facilitate closer economic ties amongst African business community to address new and emerging challenges relating to intra-African trade;

  • Share ideas on the role of the private sector in the implementation of the CFTA once the agreement is signed; 

  • In addition, four critical issues will be recognized and given ‘priority attention’: jobs, technology, women, and green economy.

Key activities

  1. Pre-Conference Activities – A thorough engagement of key stakeholders with African and global experience will take place through pre-conference (i) web-based and phone consultations. The range of topics addressed here will mirror that of the conference. These will serve to provide inputs for identifying priority topics, developing the conference panels, and will also allow for specific recommendations to be endorsed by conference delegates. (ii) Activities geared specifically towards young professionals and business leaders, and students of business and public administration will be another important pillar. African young professionals and business leaders will participate in the consultations which will conclude with their recommendations on what they can do to advance the CFTA. (iii) Linkages and synergies to events around the CFTA taking place at the REC levels, and other related events, will be strategic and timely. 

  2. Conference on “Business and the Continental Free Trade Area” – will focus on role of the private sector in: i) Catalyzing a coalition of stakeholders (private sector, civil society, parliamentarians and academia) around the CFTA, and (ii) Engaging the private sector to boost continental trade.

  3. Post-Conference Activities – A number of activities will emerge from the “2017 Business and the Continental Free Trade Area” conference. The approach on these will be to support ideas, recommendations, and activities that emerge organically from the event. A few ideas, however, are being developed to support a programmatic approach: (i) Establishment of a unit within national chambers to champion the implementation of the CFTA; (ii) Articulating specific follow-up activities that will emerge from the conference. (iii) Materials, collateral, video and developed modules will enable wholesale approach and south-south knowledge exchange and dissemination. 


  • Improved capacity of chambers of commerce and industry/business associations in understanding trade policies and issues related to the CFTA with at least 2 national events conducted promoting the CFTA by 70% of chambers of commerce.

  • At national levels enhanced dialogue and networking among government officials and business leaders conducted to promote the CFTA with at least 1 national public/private event conducted promoting the CFTA by 70% of chambers of commerce.


  • Establishment of a unit within national chambers to advance and monitor the implementation of the CFTA;

  • Four conference papers on (i) Review the implications of EPA, AGOA and other trade instruments on the CFTA; (ii) How can SMEs increase their cross border trade in Africa; (iii) How the private sector can advance and monitor the implementation of the CFTA following it’s ratification

  • Recommendations on the priority issues for action and follow up.

  • Agreement to use existing mechanisms to review and follow up on the conference commitments.

Conference Participants 

The Conference will be attended by about 150 economic operators including exporters, importers, investors and trade support institutions along with governments within Africa and beyond.

High Level Speakers include H.E. Mr. Alan Keyerematen (Ghana Minister of Trade), H.E. Mr. Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Nana Dr. Appiagyei Dankawoso, President of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Dr. David Luke, UNECA Programme Coordinator: African Trade Policy Center.


The Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established by 35 founding national business chambers in 2009 to be the main business advocacy organization in Africa. PACCI provides exclusive support, networking opportunities, and access to innovative insight and analysis for our members. Today PACCI is the most representative business organization in the continent, providing a voice for business at a continental and global level. It has one key objective: to strengthen Africa’s business competitiveness across all sectors.

PACCI has been partnering with UNECA/ATPC to enhance private sector participation in trade policy making. The ATPC has been assisting PACCI to build its capacity since 2013.  


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