Building capacity to help Africa trade better

10th Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration ends on high note


10th Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration ends on high note

10th Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration ends on high note
Photo credit: UNICEF | Tremeau

The 10th Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration (CRCI) ended in Addis Ababa Thursday night with participants adopting recommendations that will go a long way in assisting member States in adopting and implementing the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

The meeting, held under the theme “Implementation of the continental free trade area and shared gains”, generated a lot of interest from member States with debate going well into the night as they discussed how countries will benefit from the CFTA.

The main objective of the meeting was to examine efforts being made to fast track the implementation of the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade and an agreement to establish a Continental Free Trade Area.

“We are happy that member States showed full support for the adoption and implementation of the CFTA,” Stephen Karingi, Acting Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said at the end of the meeting.

“This meeting was special because it gave much attention to the CFTA, which will make a huge difference in Africa’s development once adopted. It showed member States how to better implement the CFTA with due linkages to agriculture, infrastructure, energy, food security, investment, regional integration and land.”


The ECA, in cooperation with the African Union Commission, participants agreed, should take a leading role in monitoring the implementation of the various components of the agreement to establish the CFTA.

Member States were encouraged to enhance the implementation of the Boosting Intra-African Trade Action Plan while the AUC and its partners were asked to track progress made in that regard and provide technical assistance for the implementation.

Countries were encouraged to involve the private sector in the process of establishing the CFTA to ensure that the design of the agreement addresses their priorities and concerns, particularly with regards to the rules of origin.

Among some of the recommendations, member States and regional economic communities (RECs) were encouraged to adopt sound monitoring and evaluation frameworks to ensure the effective implementation of regional integration commitments.

ECA, AUC and the African Development Bank (AfDB) were urged to increase their investment in generating and collecting data on trade and regional integration.

The ECA was tasked to collect and compile data based on intra-African investments; undertake a review study to identify financial challenges faced by African countries, such as those related to infrastructure and industrial projects; undertake a study on promoting regional value chains for some commodities with a view to examine key barriers and embark on another study on regional integration issues and opportunities for landlocked countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Africa.


Under progress on land policy formulation and implementation in Africa, participants agreed that the ECA and the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC), should collaborate with member States to advance regional integration by promoting harmonization and convergence of land policies in relevant protocols and programmes of the RECs and by integrating land policies in regional agricultural investment plans and national agricultural investment plans.

The ECA was asked to build its institutional capacity in support of land governance by institutionalizing the recently launched ALPC in a manner that ensures financial stability, operational efficiency and strong ownership in accordance with a 2015 decision of the same meeting.

And in line with a recent African Union decision, ECA and the ALPC were called upon to apply the recommendations of a recent study on land, ethnicity and conflict to develop guidelines for member States to use to mitigate land-based and ethnic-based conflicts.

Food Security

To improve food security in Africa, member States were encouraged to empower small-scale farmers by making them more commercially oriented through the adoption of farming models that fit with the specificities of small-scale production in Africa.

Member States were also urged to promote regional agricultural value chains through improving transboundary infrastructure and transportation, harmonization of standards, and enhancing the productive capacity of agriculture and agribusiness, including agro-industry; and to integrate national food reserves into regional food reserves to better adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.

Recommendations were also made on inclusive infrastructure development, which is the key to promoting Africa’s industrialization and how to boost intra-African investment.

Trade policy experts, ministers, academia, partner organizations such as the African Union Commission, African Development Bank, Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and representatives of UN agencies attended the meeting.

New ECA publications put in focus human rights perspective of CFTA; smart trade & industrial policy in Africa

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) on Wednesday launched joint reports on transforming African economies through smart trade and industrial policy and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), respectively.

The joint launch was organized by the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the Economic Commission for Africa during the ongoing 10th Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration.

The two reports launched were “Transforming African Economies Through Smart Trade and Industrial Policy”, a joint report of the ATPC and the London-based ODI, and “The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in Africa – A Human Rights Perspective”, a joint report of the ATPC and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

The CFTA report was also done in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The first report provides a thorough assessment of what is required of African economies to undertake smart industrialization through trade, informed by an analysis of whether current trade policies and tariff structures positively contribute to Africa’s broader industrialization policy.

The second report provides an ex-ante Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) of the CFTA, which explores the potential adverse effects of the CFTA on vulnerable groups such as women, informal cross border trades, the youth and smallholder farmers.

In his remarks at the joint launch, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre, David Luke, said the reports were closely related with their recommendations complementing one another.

“Unless the CFTA is targeted at achieving Africa’s industrialization goals, it will not be able to support inclusive and human rights consistent trade,” Mr. Luke noted.

Expert discussants from the International Labour Organization (ILO), SEATINI-Uganda, the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) and the ODI applauded the organisations involved for what they said were excellent publications that will go a long way in informing debate and member States’ decisions on trade, industrial policy and related issues.

They highlighted that globalization was a reality that Africa cannot run away from but added that it must start at home through regional integration and the CFTA.

At the same time, it was noted that the recent backlash against globalization has been partly driven by inadequate attention being paid to important distributive issues related to human rights, and that the CFTA human rights impact assessment was therefore very timely and welcome.

The experts praised the “Transforming African Economies Through Smart Trade and Industrial Policy” report for acknowledging the importance of standards and conformity assessment in Africa’s industrialization, and moving away from the traditional protectionist view of how to use trade policy for industrial development.

The launch was attended by representatives of Member States, regional economic communities (RECs), the African Union Commission (AUC), civil society, academia and the private sector.


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