Author : Mbakiso Magwape
Type of publication : Academic article
Date of publication : 2018
The AfCFTA was created to bolster intra-African trade, which has notoriously been the lowest in the world compared to other continents. The AfCFTA was established to attain increased intra-African trade by developing a continental market for goods and services, laying the foundation for a continental customs union, and resolving the spaghetti-bowl challenge within the continent.
African efforts at creating integrated programs and strategies for self-reliant development and cooperation among African Countries have been in existence for decades. African continental integration efforts have disreputably been unsuccessful. Failure to meet target-deadlines, the spaghetti-bowl challenges, political and governance issues, which have been addressed by numerous scholars, have all compromised efforts.
In adopting Agenda 2063, Member States undertook to fast-track the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area by 2017, and set out to establish a programme to double intra-Africa trade by 2022
The Structure Of The AFCFTA
The AfCFTA, together with the Protocols on Trade in Goods, Services and the Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes will only enter into force upon twenty-two Member States ratifying the Agreement. The AfCFTA is a framework Agreement, consisting of the Agreement establishing the continental FTA, the Protocol on Trade in Goods and Trade in Services, and the Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes. The AfCFTA also envisages Protocols on Investment, Intellectual Property Rights, Competition Policy (and any other Instrument within the scope of the Agreement deemed necessary), which will only enter into force after the second round of negotiations.
African efforts at creating integrated programs and strategies for self-reliant development and cooperation among African Countries have been in existence for decades. African continental integration efforts have disreputably been unsuccessful. Failure to meet target-deadlines, the spaghetti-bowl challenges, political and governance issues, which have been addressed by numerous scholars, have all compromised efforts
The AfCFTA charters its own course in order to attain its objectives of the continental liberalization of goods and services, and to lay a foundation for a Continental Customs Union through harmonization and standardization across Africa.
The AFCFTA and trade facilitation
Trade facilitation has been the focus of reform in Sub-Saharan Africa for the past two decades, in efforts to boost inter-trade within the continent. Africa has been challenged with numerous trade impediments, such as documentation, strenuous customs procedures, inefficient port operations, and inadequate infrastructure, which all lead to additional costs and delays for exporters and importers. Trade facilitation is an integral part of the AfCFTA, etched into the framework agreement itself, and the Protocol for trade on Goods.
The potential of a unified, truly economically integrated Africa may be a practical objective, and not just a dream. The AfCFTA has the ability to unlock intra-African trade by 52.3%
The AfCFTA strives to resolve overly burdensome customs procedures and excessive paperwork, establish cooperation between customs authorities over product standards and regulations and set-up trade transit and facilitation to ensure easier for goods to flow between Africa’s borders.
As stated above the AfCFTA applies a top-down approach, and the same applies regarding trade facilitation. The Continental FTA requires ‘State Parties’ to apply international instruments, standards and practices to attain such trade facilitation objectives, particularly in the area of customs cooperation.
The Continental FTA sparks new hope for continental integration by being the first instrument and body responsible for ‘top-down’ continental integration. This is a complete re-arrangement from the previous ‘bottom-up’ approach. The AfCFTA requires all Member States to conform to its standards, as opposed to the previous dispensation under the AEC where RECs operated as regional bodies.
The AfCFTA uses International instruments, in particular the WTO TFA, as the target measure of trade facilitation on key issues such as release and clearance of goods, border cooperation, and publication of information. It incorporates key trade facilitation provisions from the WTO TFA with similar wording, and even allows for notification under WTO TFA without going through the AfCFTA structures. This is also an acknowledgement of the cognition of obligations of African States under international law on trade and customs.
African states have shown political will and unity in signing and implementing both the WTO TFA and the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA together with its Protocols, upon successful implementation by Member States, will have a significant impact on barriers; markets are readily accessible, thereby significantly increasing trade flows between countries. The potential of a unified, truly economically integrated Africa may be a practical objective, and not just a dream. The AfCFTA has the ability to unlock intra-African trade by 52.3%.
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