A training workshop for English-speaking African trade negotiators and officials for services negotiations was carried out by UNCTAD under the African Continental Free Trade Area initiative in August.
Trade negotiators from 19 Anglophone African countries and African Union Commission officials benefitted from training provided by international, regional and national experts in an intensive workshop on trade in services negotiations in Nairobi, Kenya, on 24-28 August.
Participants learned about the importance of services trade in African development, services negotiations at the global and regional levels, and possible options and approaches to services negotiations at the pan-African level, including in sensitive sectors such as labour mobility. Several national and regional experiences from African regional economic communities were shared by high-ranking officials.
While participants were introduced to available databases and information tools on services trade at the World Trade Organization, the World Bank Group and UNCTAD, a lack of services data was acknowledged and current efforts to improve the availability of such data were emphasized.
The training also included a simulation of a services negotiation conducted by UNCTAD. This involved coaching participants to simulate real-life services negotiations. The trainnees were divided into different stakeholder teams and given mandates which they then used to negotiate services liberalization commitments with a notional Ministry of Trade, after which the national commitments were analyzed and discussed by all.
The trainees emerged from the learning event with a greater understanding of services economy and services trade and trade negotiations, services trade statistics, regional and national inside perspectives and different applicable agreements. They also gained skills that will allow them to negotiate and develop schedules of commitments.
The participants unanimously called for further such training to be conducted, preferably back-to-back with formal African Union services negotiating sessions. Subjects for further study could include general and sectoral services trade, a stock-take of regulatory regimes and related institutional bodies applicable at national, regional and continental levels, UNCTAD services policy reviews for African countries, and situational analyses of services liberalization regimes currently operational in Africa's regional economic communities and at the continental level.
The workshop was a key stepping stone in the path toward creating highly trained and efficient negotiators to lead African countries to sustainable development.
The African Union Commission will organize a second workshop for French-speaking African countries in Benin at the end of October 2015.