SEATINI-Uganda in partnership with Eco News Africa, Africa Trade Network and Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) organized a multi-stakeholder consultative meeting on the continental free trade area from the 16th – 17th May 2017,at the Imperial Golf View Hotel in Entebbe. The meeting brought together members from the Civil Society Organisations, Private sector, Uganda Manufacturers Association, Ministry of Trade, and representatives from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and African Union among others. Objectives of the meeting;
- Determining the approaches, processes and critical issues in the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
- Analysing the relationship between the CFTA and development visions, priorities and policies in EAC partner states.
- Discuss and analyse stakeholders concerns on the CFTA in terms of job creation, industrialisation, gender, structural transformation and sustainable development
- Gather stakeholder’s positions on strategic issues that should be given to negotiators representing member countries at the CFTA meeting set for June this year.
In January 2012, The African Union Summit decided to establish the Continental Free Trade Area by 2017, in a self-proclaimed attempt to fast-track the continental trade integration process as per the 1991 Abuja Treaty. Full negotiations to this end were launched in January 2015 and are expected to come to a conclusion by June 2017.
Once in place, CFTA will create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union. It will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across the RECs and across Africa in general. The CFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.
The CFTA Negotiations will evolve around issues addressing the NTBs, Sanitary and Phytosanitary standards, Trade facilitation, among others. It is believed that cooperation in these issues will be a step towards the creation of the African Economic Community as envisioned in the 1991 Abuja Treaty. However, the key guiding principles have tended to over-emphasize the need to build on existing trade regimes, including those between African and non-African countries and regions. This result is a tendency towards an inbuilt bias to trade liberalisation and deregulation are the main motor of Africa’s trade integration.
Some emerging issues;
- Small scale farmers expect to be empowered with information about CFTA to find out how relevant CAFTA will be to them. In its current form, issues of farmers haven’t been highlighted and they have no idea of what is in CAFTA that will benefit them.
- Currently there is low intra-regional trade among the African Trading blocs. However with CFTA in place, there is a belief that this will all change as the market is in abundance.
- CFTA is seen as one of the pillars that will drive the continent towards the development Agenda of 2063 of the Africa Union (AU), alongside other continental action plans such as the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT), the Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa (AIDA), and the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
In conclusion, the CFTA is a great idea, but can & will only become a grand project upon inclusion & action being taken of the views and concerns expressed by none political / none state actors mainly Africa’s Private Sector & Civil Society Organisations.