African policy makers, Regional Economic Communities, African business leaders and others are set to hold a two-day policy dialogue in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to map out a strategy for successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The May 27-28 policy dialogue is co-organised by the AU and the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), a 10-year old development platform for discussions and reflections, for stakeholders to map out a strategy for implementation of trade agreement and therefore lead to the realization of Africa's aspiration enunciated in Agenda 2063.
AGENDA 2063 is Africa's blueprint and master plan for transforming the continent into the global powerhouse of the future.
A concept note on the upcoming policy dialogue indicates that: "The planned policy dialogue will further enhance stakeholder engagement on the implementation of the AfCFTA."
It also aims to: build knowledge and expertise of all stakeholders on priority trade issues of the AfCFTA; improve regular information flow on trade issues to key stakeholders, and suggest a framework for the establishment of AfCFTA national committees; and improve co-ordination among relevant government ministries and agencies including through clear mandates and assigning of responsibilities.
Improving the participation opportunities for stakeholders in the work programme of the AfCFTA; and strengthening the culture of dialogue and inclusiveness, are the other specific goals of the policy dialogue.
The AfCFTA was first signed by African leaders on March 21, 2018, in Kigali.
Among other benefits, experts estimate that the AfCFTA will increase intra-African trade by over 50 per cent, and boost the continent's GDP by more than $40 billion.
Underpinning the agreement is a belief that consolidating the continent into one trade area provides greater opportunities for businesses and consumers alike, and increases the chance to support sustainable development in the world's least developed region.
Twenty-two ratifications were needed for the agreement to enter into force.
And, in April this year, the trade deal got the minimum required ratifications after the Gambia became the 22nd country to ratify it.
The AfCFTA Agreement will enter into force on the 30th day following the 22nd deposit of instrument of ratification.
According to the organisers of the dialogue, so far, 52 of the 55 AU member states are signatories to the agreement.
Benin, Eritrea and Nigeria are the three countries that have not yet signed the Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA
In addition, 22 Parliaments of AU member states have approved ratification of the agreement out of which 19 member states have deposited instruments of ratification.
There is optimism that the remaining two will deposit instruments of ratification soon.
At the 31st Ordinary Summit of the AU Heads of State and Government held last July in Nouakchott, Mauritania, the Assembly committed to "undertake broad-based national awareness campaigns so that all stakeholders such as ordinary citizens and business people across Africa embrace the AfCFTA."
The Summit also mandated the AU Commission to organize a civil society forum and a private sector forum preceding the July 2019 Summit in Niamey, Niger in order to enhance stakeholder engagement on the implementation of the AfCFTA.
Beyond the establishment of National Committee on the AfCFTA, there is a need to ensure that African countries and RECs have functioning formal platforms to undertake regular multi-stakeholder consultations to ensure inclusive trade policymaking and implementation processes.
"Inclusive trade policy-making processes can significantly contribute to the empowering of people and persuade governments to develop and implement policies that use trade as a means to pursue economic equity and social justice," reads the AU- CoDA concept note.
Founded in 2009, CoDA is a special initiative of its three convening organizations - the AU Commission (AUC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
It aims to place particular attention on bridging the gap between the research and policy making communities on the continent.