Launching of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area by the AU Assembly, Niamey, Niger

The summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) was held in the Nigerien capital, Niamey in July 2019. The Summit took another decisive step on the AfCFTA by launching the operational phase of the Agreement. Rules of origin instrument was the single most important instrument whose launch brings AfCFTA negotiations on the trade in goods closer to finalization. Other instruments launched by the Summit include: the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and; the African Trade Observatory. As members of the AU set sights to complete pending negotiations as well as engage in phase II negotiations, the importance of the AfCFTA cannot be overemphasized. Further details on the outcomes of the Summit can be accessed here.

Progress on ECOWAS planned new single currency

In its quest to pursue deeper integration beyond the current level of market integration, the Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted the name ‘ECO’ that will be the descriptor of a long planned single currency to be used by the region. Among 15 Members of ECOWAS, Six Members that include Nigeria and Ghana may adopt ECO in place of their national currencies. Originally expected to be launched in 2000 and subsequently bogged down by multiple postponements, the new target date for the launch of the new currency has been set for 2020. It is expected that ECOWAS working together with West African Monetary Agency (WAMA), the West Africa Monetary Institute (WAMI) and central banks will speed up the implementation of a new road map for the proposed single trade currency. At implementation level, ECO is expected to improve trade in ECOWAS regions by allowing specialization among countries in the exchange of goods and services. Further details on the ECO can be found here.


39th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

The 39th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and preceding meetings took place in Dar es Salaam, in the United Republic of Tanzania from the 9th to the 18th of August, 2019.  The Summit was convened under the theme: “A conducive environment for inclusive and sustainable industrial development, increased intra-regional trade, and job creation” Amongst others the Summit noted the overall decline in food production in the Region, for the 2018/19 crop season, and urged Member States to implement comprehensive multi-year response plans to tackle the recurrent droughts and food insecurity to boost agricultural production. It further noted with great concern the slow growth in the intra-SADC trade levels, and that the region continues to export unprocessed raw material to the rest of the world, thereby forfeiting the potential benefits of the resource endowments. To this effect, Summit agreed to accelerate the implementation of the industrialization strategy. More information about the Summit can be found here.

COMESA member states urged to ratify Tripartite Agreement as a building block towards the AfCFTA

At the occasion of the 21st COMESA International Trade Fair and High-Level Business Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, COMESA members were encouraged to ratify and implement the Tripartite Agreement between COMESA, SADC and EAC, as a fundamental building block towards the completion of the AfCFTA. The Summit noted that in view of the AfCFTA,  “… business communities, both regionally and globally eagerly await the benefits of trade that will come not only with expanded markets but with the opportunities for rapid development and access to innovation and technology.” In its deliberations, the meeting considered ways to spur regional trade through among others addressing issues of competitiveness of enterprises, enhancing regional supply chains and encouraging local sourcing within the COMESA, Tripartite and African region. It further established that the AfCFTA is going to be made or broken based on how much we give preference to content which is ‘Made in Africa. Further information about this event can be accessed here.

Trade reports

Afreximbank launches its flagship Africa Trade Report 2019 focusing on globalization of digital transformation and digital revolution

The African Export Import Bank, Afreximbank, launched its flagship report, namely Africa Trade Report 2019. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the state of intra Africa and Africa’s trade with the world. It focuses on globalization of digital transformation, digital revolution and implications on Africa’s trade and development. Consequently, the report is themed “African Trade in a Digital World” in recognition of the implications of the ongoing process of digital transformation and the potential it holds for economic development and effective integration of African countries into the global economy. The report stresses the fact that Africa’s resilience to negative shocks and global volatility reflects the diversification of its trading partners in a context of expanding South-South trade, growing fixed investment, and strengthening public and private consumption spurred by lower inflation, expanding urban populations, and an increasingly favourable macroeconomic environment. Therefore, despite the slowdown in global growth as per World Trade Organisation’s estimates showing that the volume of global merchandise trade grew by 3 percent in 2018, down from 4.6 percent in 2017, Africa’s output grew by 3.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018. Further details about the report can be found here

UNECA and Partners Launch Assessing Regional Integration in Africa – ARIA IX Report

 UNECA and its partners published ARIA IX 2019 report. This seminal publication amongst other assesses the status of regional integration in Africa, provides the state of play and next steps for the AfCFTA including in respect of phase II negotiations. The report ventures to tackle a hot topic in international discourse namely, e-commerce and further delves into a topic on integration in a digitizing Africa. It sets out a number of recommendations which include: a need for African countries to address the crisis of implementation and translate promises at the continental and regional levels into action; Implementing of the AfCFTA will be more effective if national ministries responsible for trade create AfCFTA committees; Trade facilitation measures can support AfCFTA trade opportunities etc. The report can be accessed here.

WTO issues 2019 Annual Report

On 4 June 2019 the WTO published its 2019 annual report which provides a substantive narration covering activities of the organsiation during the 2018 to 2019 reporting period. Part of the key messages from the report include recognition of swelling trade tensions, spiraling trade-restrictive measures and continuing economic uncertainty that created material challenges for world trade in 2018. The report established that these factors and a deceleration in overall economic activity slowed momentum in global trade, restricting merchandise trade growth to 3 per cent compared with 4.6 per cent in 2017. This downward trend is expected to continue in 2019, with trade projected to grow by just 2.6 per cent. Trade growth is only expected to bounce back in 2020, if the tensions identified are tackled and there is creation of an environment where trade can play its full part in driving economic growth and reducing poverty. The report can be accessed here.


Development partners: dialogue forums and projects

WTO Convenes Aid for Trade Global Review 2019 Title “Supporting Economic Diversification and Empowerment”

 The seventh Global Review of Aid for Trade themed, “Supporting Economic Diversification and Empowerment” was held in 5 July 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The review considered a number of issues and its was established that since it was launched, over USD 409 billion have been disbursed reaching 146 countries or territories. The support targeted helping the recipients to build their trading infrastructure and capacity. A number of sessions were held including one on fisheries. Alarmingly, it was noted that global fish stocks are being depleted. The WTO Director General observed that according to the FAO, 33% of global stocks are overfished, and most of the rest are at their limits. He further observed that depleted stocks mean depleted economic activity for coastal communities, and millions around the world will lose their livelihoods. Further details can be found here.

18th annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum

 18th annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum was held from 4-6 AUGUST 2019 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. United States President Clinton signed AGOA into law in May 2000 and it was extended in 2015 by 10 years to 2025. At the occasion of the 18th Annual AGOA forum the spotlight was among other put on the AfCFTA. In this context, Deputy United States Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney and African Union Commission Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga signed a joint statement concerning trade between the United States and the African Union at the opening ceremony of the 2019 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum. Amongst others, the joint statement recognizes the United States and the African Union’s mutual desire and common goal to increase trade and investment between the United States of America and Africa in the context of the AfCFTA. Details on the joint statement can be accessed here.

TMEA and Rwanda Standard Board partner to enhance food safety and trade

 TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) today committed to fund Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) with US$ 1 Million in support of projects that will enhance food safety and trade.  The new interventions will benefit farmers, pack houses, feed millers and feed transporters who will be enabled to attain international sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) requirements in food safety of local agricultural products; enabling them to access a wide range of markets within the region and internationally. Further details can be obtained here.

COMESA Trains Cross Border Traders’ Associations to Enhance Advocacy

In recognition of the important cross border trade, in particular, in the context of unregistered trade, COMESA cohosted an advocacy workshop for Cross Border Traders’ Associations from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Congo DR in Lusaka, Zambia from 4th to 9th August 2019. The workshop was held in collaboration with International Trade Centre. Amongst others the workshop zeroed in on best practices in advocacy for trade facilitation and mobility. Further details about the workshop can be found here.

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