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Capacity building for inclusive and equitable African trade arrangements

Posted on: December 14, 2020


Private sector engagement in trade issues is lower in African countries than it is in developed countries. Businesses currently face many constraints, including high trade costs, divergent regulatory frameworks and governance issues that undermine their effective operations on the African continent. Some countries in Africa are doing better than others, but generally, levels of engagements are increasing.

Although governments negotiate trade agreements, preference utilisation is driven by the private sector in the export of goods and services. Some sectors have more opportunities for inclusion than others and the private sector has to be engaged and empowered to better understand how to implement trade agreements in ways that create gainful trade opportunities. In African most countries, businesses lack access to trade and market information.

The implementation of this TCII contribution agreement by UNECA, with support from the OACPS and funded by the EC, aims to build the capacity for inclusive and equitable trade targeting policy makers and the private sector to increase the capacity of African private sector to take better advantage of preferential trade agreements and arrangements. This Project is part of a broader programme of the ECA/ATPC that aims to boost intra African trade and accelerate private sector development.

The implementation of the Action under this contribution agreement is proceeding well, despite disruptions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, following the signing of the agreement in May 2019.

During the implementation of the action a number of Key studies are being developed, namely:

  • Study on E-Commerce Provisions in PTA’s to strengthen the capacity of the African private sector to take better advantage of e-commerce in preferential trade agreements and arrangements-EAC;
  • Study on extending the benefits of free trade to informal cross border traders with a view to strengthen the capacity of both private and public sector actors to support informal traders to better tap into preferential market access opportunities and gradually formalize their trade, with focus on ECOWAS;
  • Study on negotiating Institutions: Putting in the right foundations to strengthen the capacity of the African private sector to better engage in the negotiation and implementation of preferential trade agreements and arrangements, and particularly those relating to trade in services, with focus on ECCAS;
  • Study on Preferential Trade Agreement compliance to strengthen the capacity of the African private sector to comply with and take better advantage of preferential trade agreements and arrangements (emphasize on TBT and SPS), focusing on Southern Africa;
  • Study on PTA utilization by the private sector in Africa, and particularly vulnerable groups within the private sector, the constraints they face, and where support to improve the use of PTAs should be prioritized, with continental focus.

These studies will take into account issues on regional trade agreements, Economic Partnership Agreements and other preferential trade arrangements that African countries are beneficiaries of, and will highlight good practices for private sector engagement in Africa and form the basis for the design of capacity building programmes for the private sector.

All studies are underway. COVID-19 disrupted the research methodologies for the above studies, which originally envisaged fieldwork to gather primary data and ensure that the studies added considerable new value on these topics. Alternative methodologies have now been developed that put greater emphasis on desk research, where possible, as well as virtual means of primary data collection (particularly online surveys, telephonic and online video call interviews). This virtual data collection however requires more time to achieve the required volumes and quality of data.

COVID-19 has strengthened the case for developing intra-African regional value chains and making Africa’s existing participation in global value chains more inclusive. The project is therefore still timely, and offers an opportunity to ensure that the AfCFTA and other regional trading arrangements that African countries are party to will be implemented in an inclusive and equitable manner

Programme funded by European Union at the request of the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States - Implemented by AESA CONSORTIUM