AU in meetings to progress intra African trade
The African Union is spearheading efforts to boost intra African trade as a means to achieve the Agenda 2063 goal of a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa by 2063.
In this respect, from 23 to 27 November, the African Union co-hosted three meetings aimed at enhancing trade among African countries: i.e. discussing progress in regional integration, specifically the moves towards establishing a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA): modalities for trade in services negotiations and review of the implementation of the plan of action for Boosting Intra African Trade (BIAT).
Meeting in Cape Town were different departments of the African Union Commission, including the Directorate of Information and Communication, some member states, Regional Economic Communities and partners, under the joint coordination of the AUC’s Department of Trade and Industry and the Trade Law Center (Tralac), based in South Africa.
With regards to the CFTA, the meeting benefitted from experiences of the Tripartite Free Trade Area that was launched by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in June 2015.
The objective of the modalities workshop was to review the various services liberalization options and modalities for negotiations and make recommendations of possible options and modalities to be adopted for the CFTA services negotiations.
In its efforts to boost intra African trade, the Union adopted the BIAT Action Plan to deepen African market integration and significantly increase the volume of trade that African countries undertake among themselves. The action plan has the following pillars trade policy, trade facilitation, infrastructure, finance, information, factor market integration and productive capacity. The road map also envisages that the CFTA will be established by 2017, building upon and consolidating the regional free trade agreements of Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
The meeting took stock of the implementation of the BIAT Action Plan at RECs and member states’ level; exchanged information and experiences with regards to the implementation of the Action Plan or related initiatives; and discussed the design of a monitoring and evaluation framework.
“Beneficiaries of intra African trade, i.e. the African people, need to see results sooner rather than later, so we are discussing how we can move forward step by step to realize the opportunities that will arise from greater intra African trade,” said AUC Director for Trade and Industry Mrs Treasure Maphanga.
Such benefits are expected to accrue from economies of scale to supply international markets, as Africa leverages its combined capacities and population of almost one billion people.
The importance of boosting intra African trade is of great significance to achieving a prosperous Africa. Levels of trade in Africa are currently very low compared to other regions. It was estimated at 11 to 12 percent in 2010, growing to a still lowly 13 percent by 2015. Through implementation of the BIAT plan of action, this is expected to almost double to 22 percent before 2022.
The conclusions from the meeting will be submitted to the STC on Trade, Industry and Mineral Resources in 2016.
Implementation of the BIAT action plan is being done in coordination with other key actors including RECs, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and the African Development Bank.