What's up with the AfCFTA? Negotiation Status Edition

Published on
February 9, 2024
Gugu Siso
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In our previous edition, we went through what the AfCFTA is, how it started, its end goal and where we are right now. Please bear in mind that whilst I have tried to be as succinct as possible, there is a lot to take in as well as to keep up to date with. I struggled to take it in over just 3 days of 8 hours per day of training. So over the next weeks, I will share with you my understanding of the most important parts of this version focused on the Negotiations Status of the AfCFTA.

So, let's start with the Negotiation Status of the AfCFTA. This is where after the politicians have smiled for the photo opportunities and gone back to their wheeling and dealing, the Chief Negotiators of their countries, usually very intelligent and experienced people, step in; sit down and politely blood thirstily fight for the interests of their country. This is to try to get to a consensus on the planning stages and what implementation would look like. Without it, getting to an operational status would be neigh-high impossible. So the goal was to split the negotiations into three phases to allow for a plan of action for all parties to follow. The phases of negotiation are;

Phase 1. Trade in Goods and Services.

This is where the AfCFTA Agreement (we covered that in the last issue), the Protocols on Goods and Services (I’ll dedicate a whole issue to this one as it has to do with exciting issues such as trade tariffs and concessions) and the Protocols of Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes were decided upon. Whilst most of these instruments came into play on the 30th of May 2020, it is very important to note that some are still being negotiated namely the Settlement of Disputes section. That's a very tricky one as countries do not typically litigate against each other so if disputes come up between two companies trading underneath the AfCTA, how do they get fixed? One of the solutions to that particular problem is the Guided Trade Initiative, where one of their more important objectives is to test if the current legal framework works and if not, what can be done about it. I am eagerly watching this as it will set the tone for interactions in future.

Phase 2. IPR, Investment and Competition Policy

This phase is mainly going to cover issues about; Women and Youth in Trade, Digital Trade, Investment, Competition Policy and Intellectual Property Rights. These are mostly still in the works with various consultations and planning sessions taking place. I will cover Digital Trade, Competition Policy and IPRs in other oncoming editions as they are lengthy topics on their own. For now, the most interesting for me is the Protocol concerning Women and Youth in Trade that is currently being discussed. One of the stumbling blocks that are being faced is the lack of youth-based Business Chambers/Councils on the continent that are visible and can serve as representative and consultative parties for youth who are active in cross-border trade. In my opinion, this then leads to consultations by entities such as the AfCFTA to take place by organizations that do not represent the real interests of youth in active business and to theory-based policies that do not reflect what is going on the ground. Opportunity alert; if you are running or part of a council that represents youth and women who are getting things done on the ground, reach out and I will connect you to the relevant parties to make sure we get experienced and practical voices in those rooms.

Phase 3. E-commerce

This is another animal on its own that is still to come. I wager that this will be heavily influenced by what was decided upon on the Digital Trade Discussions under Phase Two. All I can say is if large tech startups that are active on the continent are not consulted here then we will still be playing games.

Interesting news and events to check out regarding the progress of the AfCFTA

  • The very first AfCFTA Business Forum will take place in Cape Town, South Africa from the 8-10th of March 2023 at the CTICC. The theme will be, “Powering a Successful AfCFTA”. This is an event not to be missed.


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