A week-long workshop, convened by UNCTAD and the African Union Commission, is underway to train services trade negotiators from Anglophone African countries on related negotiations under the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
The training is part of follow-up measures being undertaken by the African Union Commission AUC, in collaboration with UNCTAD, to enhance the understanding and negotiation skills of African services trade negotiators in preparation for negotiations that would take place subsequent to the June 2015 AU Summit decision to launch negotiations on the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), which are expected to be concluded in 2017.
The 50-plus participants include services trade negotiators from 19 African countries and 4 African Regional Economic Communities, as well as representatives from UNCTAD, the AUC, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (TRALAC), International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP) and other independent experts.
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Ms. Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Kenya opened the Workshop, with a statement delivered on her behalf by Ms. Joyce Ogundo, Director of Internal Trade of the same Ministry.
Ms. Mohamed stated that Kenya believes in the importance of trade in services, as highlighted in the recent UNCTAD report on "Unlocking the potential of Africa's services trade for growth and development".
She stressed that "Services are key for enhancing the competitiveness of African economies" as exemplified in the case of Kenya's mobile-phone based money transfer and micro-financing service (M-PESA).
Ms. Treasure Maphanga, Director, Department of Trade and Industry, of the AUC, said that the African continent is serious about moving forward on the CFTA, as made evident by the launching of the negotiations on the CFTA by the June 2015 AU Summit.
She added that the negotiation guidelines adopted by members provide for the negotiations of trade in goods and trade in services concurrently to establish a CFTA in goods and services. The negotiations will build upon existing efforts in African regional economic communities, taking into account relations with the WTO and external partners.
Ms. Maphanga stressed the importance of the workshop in preparing African services trade negotiators, and announced that a second workshop for AU Francophone countries would be held in Benin in October.
Ms. Maria-Thereae Keating, UNDP Country Director and UN Resident Representative (a.i.), said that the UN believes that economic development is a key driver of poverty reduction and that international trade is a major vector of such transformation. The UN is thus committed to supporting African countries in realizing the CFTA, including in terms of services economy and development, which can have stronger developmental results.
Mr. Bonapas Onguglo, Senior Affairs Officer, UNCTAD, reiterated that services are needed to boost competitiveness in all other sectors in the economy. UNCTAD's comprehensive work on services reflects this.
The workshop will enhance awareness and understanding of services economy issues by African services negotiators and also bolster their negotiations skills through practical exercises and simulations.