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Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Eastern Africa: From vision to action

Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Eastern Africa: From vision to action
Photo credit: AU-UN IST | Stuart Price

09 Nov 2018

22nd Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts of the Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa

In partnership with the Government of Rwanda, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is holding a three-day Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) Conference on 20th-22nd November in Kigali to help reach a regional consensus on how to move forward with the implementation of the AfCFTA.

The theme of the meeting is: “Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Eastern Africa: From Vision to Action”. Over 250 participants – senior government officials, experts and representatives from the private sector – from the 14 Member States served by the Office for Eastern Africa will attend.

Africa is already the leading trading partner for the EAC member states. But East African countries need to do more to tap into the dynamism of regional markets, especially at a time when global growth is still precarious and much of the world is concerned about the consequences of trade wars and disputes.

ECA simulation work suggests that East Africa exports to Africa would increase by 31 percent if tariffs are eliminated on intra-African trade, and provide a welfare boost of US$1.4 billion. Pointedly, it would provide a significant stimulus to manufacturing sectors, particularly agro-industry.

The historic signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement in Kigali in March 2018 provides hope that we can consolidate the creation of a truly integrated market across the region and strengthen regional value chains. To fully utilize the opportunities of the AfCFTA, the ICE will focus on the discussion of national and regional AfCFTA strategies complementary to the broader trade policy.

Among the themes to be discussed will be:

  • An Overview of the Region – Macroeconomic and Social Conditions in Eastern Africa.

  • Implementing the AfCFTA – First things First?

  • Trade Facilitation and Manufacturing – How to leverage New Opportunities in Intra-African Trade

  • Gender Perspectives on the AfCFTA

  • Services Trade and the AfCFTA

  • Beyond Trade: Implementing the Protocol on the Free Movement of People

The 14 countries served by the ECA Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa are: Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Background

The ICE is a body set up by the General Assembly of the United Nations and is the statutory organ of the ECA Office for Eastern Africa. It includes representatives of the fourteen member States served by the office, as well as Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) of the subregion, development partners, research centres and other stakeholders. The composition of the current ICE bureau includes Comoros (Chair), Rwanda (First Vice Chair), DR Congo (Second Vice Chair), and South Sudan (Secretary).

The ICE meets annually on a rotational basis in the different countries covered by the office. The objectives are three-fold:

  1. To define and review the implementation of the work programme of the SRO-EA;

  2. To discuss key issues and challenges pertaining to the economic and social development of the region, with the view to making appropriate recommendations;

  3. As a forum to strengthen partnerships and cooperation between stakeholders to sustain regional integration and accelerate the pace of economic development.

The last five ICEs were held in Comoros (2017, on “Accelerating Structural Transformation in Eastern Africa: Catalysts and Constraints”), Kenya (2016, on “Institutions, Decentralizations and Structural Transformation in Eastern Africa”), Madagascar (2015, on “Harnessing the Blue Economy for the Development of Eastern Africa”), DR Congo (2014, on “National Champions, Foreign Direct Investment and Structural Transformation in Eastern Africa”) and Uganda (2013, on “Energy Access and Security in Eastern Africa”). The last time the ICE was held in Kigali was in 2010.