The 2017 African Prosperity Conference Report

The 2017 African Prosperity Conference Report
Photo credit: PACCI

11 Oct 2017

The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA): Exploring Possibilities for Business Engagement Across Africa

The 2017 Africa Prosperity Conference report and list of recommendations was compiled during the two-day meeting held in Accra, Ghana, on September 12-13th, 2017. It highlights the business communities’ proposals to advance the CFTA. It also provides an opportunity to reflect and bring critical perspective on Africa’s economic potential and challenges.

The meeting’s recommendations are:

Engaging the Private Sector

  1. PACCI should take the lead to draft the proposal to create the African Trade and Investment Panel (ATIP) that represents the various private sector interests, such as the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, business councils, industry associations, and other similar business support organizations established for aggregating and articulating the views of the private sector, identify priority areas and advice to promote economic cooperation and integration in continental policy formulation. The ATIP will be composed of members of the business community, designated by national chambers of commerce in consultation with other equivalent business associations and government agencies.

  2. Each national Chamber of Commerce, in consultation with equivalent business organizations and the appropriate government agencies should designate up to three business leaders who will be called to consult or provide inputs to the CFTA negotiations.

  3. The PACCI shall serve as Secretariat of ATIP to support the objectives and activities of the Panel. References to the African Trade and Investment Panel should be included in the CFTA.

  4. Efforts should be made by PACCI to convene the First African Council on Business before the end of 2018.

Building capacity of continental and regional chambers of commerce

  1. Because trade negotiations are currently a highly complex matter that require not only tariff reductions but also technically complex issues, such as intellectual property rights, environmental protection, and labour rights, often leading towards re-regulation as well as de-regulation of the economy. Meaningful participation in trade negotiation therefore demands a high level of technical expertise. Governments and international partners should support PACCI and regional chambers and associations to strengthen ties with governments and to assume the role of coordinator for the entire private sector.

  2. Governments and business should establish a national focal point in each country for monitoring, evaluating and reporting on the CFTA. The private sector should systematically monitor and report the progress of implementing the Continental Free Trade Area to its constituents.

  3. National governments are strongly encouraged to use their national public-private dialogue (PPD) on trade policies, including their national trade facilitation committees, to formalize government-business collaboration and follow the CFTA negotiations.

  4. CFTA negotiators should make sure the processes of developing the CFTA take gender into consideration in the whole trade agreements processes.

  5. Governments should make sure that gender balance in the CFTA negotiation team is ensured.

  6. PACCI in collaboration with partners should organize African Women in Trade Conference – to help business women discover the value of doing business with the CFTA.

  7. School environments should rapidly introduce youth to the concept of entrepreneurship and self-employment as a career option. Entrepreneurship education therefore should be sufficiently adopted. Tools, resources and information material to support youth entrepreneurship should be readily available and business should support such programs by providing resources, internships and coaching opportunities.

Trade Facilitation

  1. The free movement of natural persons that supply services should be addressed with priority, including through trusted traveler programs, streamlining visa requirements and procedures.

  2. The CFTA Rules of Origin and accompanying procedures should be VERY simple and trade-facilitating.

  3. PACCI should undertake a study to assess the value of preferential arrangements to the recipient countries, including case studies of selected countries and commodities to determine assistance, including legal support, aimed at helping African exporters to cope with technical standards affecting trade, and to penetrate markets of growing interest such as organic products.

  4. In the area of trade facilitation, the CFTA should have commitments relating to opening times for ports, the establishment and maintenance of One Stop Border Stops (OSBPs) and Single Windows, the establishment of authorized operator programs with a view to facilitating regional trade, promoting the use of electronic or on-line processing/procedures, interoperability and sharing of information from customs and other border agencies between African countries.

  5. Government should prioritize areas for sanitary and phytosanitary cooperation.

  6. PACCI should undertake the mapping of existing national and regional Alternative Dispute Resolution institutions.

  7. Negotiators of the CFTA should make sure arbitration is accessible by strengthening institutional support. Facilitation (mediation) should be available as the mechanism that resolves most trade disputes. The Chambers of Commerce should be supported to provide footprints for developing such institutions.

  8. Private investors should support the growth of coastal shipping to stimulate regional trade.

Building productive capacity

  1. Governments should make AGOA work by improving its impact notably by reducing to zero all tariffs on agriculture exports from AGOA-eligible countries.

  2. EU-Africa Business Forum should change its current format and focus more on business to business contacts facilitating trading between European and African business entities.

Trade finance for intra-African trade

  1. African governments should speed up the macroeconomic convergence necessary for a single currency across the entire sub-regions and the continent;

  2. Financial institutions should do more to take into account the needs of SMEs when introducing financial system regulations, including making financing rules and procedures related to exports more simple;

  3. Financial institutions should do more to rationalize and streamline loan procedures to support SMEs.

The full 2017 African Prosperity Conference Report is available to download in English and French on the PACCI website.