The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is the next major step in Africa's beneficial integration into the global economy: UNCTAD @MC10 Nairobi event on "CFTA: Making it work for Africa"

21 December 2015

​Some 90 participants including several African Ministers, representatives from the private sector, academia, civil society organizations and international governmental organizations stressed the expeditious conclusion of African CFTA negotiations and follow-up implementation as necessary for the beneficial integration of Africa into the global economy.

Opening the joint UNCTAD, Government of Kenya, African Union Commission (AUC) and Commonwealth Secretariat event held on the margins of the tenth Ministerial Conference of the WTO, UNCTAD's Secretary General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi expressed that the CFTA and the Tripartite (COMESA, SADC and EAC) Agreement constitute unique opportunities to drive Africa's transformation and development. The frameworks for negotiating and liberalizing goods and services are in place so focus must now be on the mechanics of implementation. Today we should bequeath a legacy to the next generation of Africans who must walk the talk on pan-African economic integration.

Dr. Erasmus Mwencha, AUC Deputy Chairperson emphasized that Africa must get the sequencing of its trade integration correct. The first step is to consolidate Africa's own internal integration to be better organized internally as a market and an economy which would in turn then serve as a building block for integration into the multilateral trading system. Hence, the CFTA negotiations must bed expeditiously concluded by the indicative date of 2017 and African countries start implementing the future agreement. The CFTA construction is premised on the basis of African RECs as foreseen in the Abuja Treaty. This is doable - it requires political will to move the process forward. Fatima Haram Acyl, AUC Commissioner of Trade and Industry, underlined the urgency of creating the CFTA. She affirmed that the CFTA comes at a timely and opportune moment for African integration and development.

The case should be made for a strong CFTA says Deodat Marajah, Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Africa is rapidly evolving and today represents a market of about one billion people market with an estimated combined GDP of US$ 1.2 trillion. The CFTA has the potential to raise the volume, value and share of intra regional Africa trade today at only 15% of total global trade to more than 25% over the next 20 years if a continental agreement is achieved, agreed Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Minister of Trade and Industry, Ghana. The Minister said ICT infrastructure is the fulcrum for seizing trading opportunities available among African countries.

UNCTAD @MC10 Nairobi event on
UNCTAD's Secretary General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi speaking at the event

Alioune Sarr, Minister of Trade of Senegal, said the implementation of CFTA must start by removing barriers to facilitating freer movement of persons across African countries, especially skilled persons and businessmen. It is also necessary to meet the growing needs of a growing and young population. The CFTA must result in creating jobs, including through building productive capacity for trade in the agriculture sector especially of food. Tarek Kabil, Minister of Trade of Egypt stressed that the single biggest barrier to intra-African trade is logistics and connectivity within the continent which make trade within Africa more expansive expensive than Africa's trade with external partners.

John O'Keeffe, President of Diageo Africa, pointed at the fact that business can be key partners in building a solid CFTA. The CFTA has the potential to foster creation of value chains in which business expand investment to secure local inputs in production of final products. Policy coherence and consistency is important for a predictable business environment. And policies to make it easy to do business are required. Think-tanks such as TRALAC (Trudi Hartzenberg) and CUTS International (Pradeep Mehta) stressed the involvement and buy-in of all stakeholders including the consumers and academia in the CFTA process: and the harmonisation and or coordination of policies and standards across the African region in order to promote regulatory convergence and a culture of competition.

It was also expressed that an effective mechanism supporting the successful CFTA negotiations and implementation is a critical factor. The design of the CFTA also will be key for its success. Trade agreements cannot only be about tradable goods. Complementary policies and measures need to be integrated in a continental scheme to effectively deliver. These include, for example, the free movement of people and capital across the continent, the building of trade and energy infrastructure, efficient logistics and deep regulatory harmonisation.

The participants welcomed UNCTAD's support to the CFTA, including through its Africa Office in Addis Ababa, and called for strengthened assistance including in the goods and services negotiations, policy coherence and consistency and building of an enabling regulatory environment.