5 December 2017

Africa's Negotiating Capacity Determines Its Future Prosperity

Accra — African countries are constantly engaged in negotiating bilateral and multilateral treaties and several contracts for the exploration and development of extractive resources. However, most of them lack the requisite institutional capacity to ensure the interests of their countries are advanced through these negotiations.

This was the view expressed by experts at the third annual International Economic Negotiations workshop being held in Accra, Ghana, which is organized by the Economic Agreements Working Group at the Capacity Development Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

About 50 participants, representing African countries, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Union Commission are attending the four-day workshop that opened today.

The key objective of the workshop is to provide an opportunity for negotiators from all African countries how best to advance their national interests through carefully designed international agreements and contracts.

Mr. Melaku Desta, Principal Regional Advisor at the ECA, says that countries must not negotiate because someone on the other side of the table wants an agreement. "Very often, our negotiation agenda is set by others. We don't always need agreements to do our daily businesses" he said.

Mr. Desta explains that international tax, trade and investment agreements as well as mining contracts have been marketed to Africa for too long with a promise that the moment we sign, the investments are going to flow, jobs are going to be created, the economy is going to flourish and everything is going to be well. But, of course, that did not happen.

The workshop is premised on the understanding that the existence of an enabling international environment within which to compete and succeed and the capacity of African negotiators to influence the terms on which that competition takes place could improve considerably many African countries' economies.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop. Hon. Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah, Ghana's Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, said that Africa must stop sending people who do not have the capabilities and capacities to negotiate its treaties and contracts.

Hon. Ahenkorah underlined that Africa will start to win in negotiations only if it has competent and committed negotiators who are ready to make all necessary preparations to understand their mandates, define their negotiating strategies and follow them through with tact and discipline. He praised ECA for organizing this timely and important workshop and expressed his hope that African negotiators will take full advantage of the opportunities.

Hon. Ahekorah further stressed that, as Ghana embarks on an aggressive industrialization agenda, the need for skilled and effective negotiators is critical so that the Government will be able to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Launched in December 2015 in Accra, the International Economic Negotiations workshop is going from strength to strength and there is a lot of demand for this type of training in many countries.

In November 2017, the Capacity Development Division of ECA organized a dedicated training workshop to Nigerian trade and investment negotiators at the request of the Government of Nigeria in the context of the recent establishment of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN).

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