Policy Advice on the AfCFTA, Trade in services, E-commerce, and Digital trade

The Project at A Glance

In a bid to increase intra-regional trade and promote regional integration across the African continent, the African Union launched negotiations for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA will create the largest free trade area in the world, with respect to the number of participating countries, calling for the unity of all African countries including its islands.

Given the vulnerabilities of island States, International Economics (IEC) provided technical support to African SIDS in their efforts to integrate the continent by capitalising on the opportunities of the free trade area while addressing their specific challenges. This support was implemented through the Programme Cooperation Agreement signed with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

What We Found

Given their unique structural characteristics, such as, remoteness to the main regional markets, reliance on a few exports and high degree of openness, African SIDS face specific challenges in effectively integrating the continent. Therefore, IEC undertook numerous studies for UNECA aiming to assist African SIDS in finalising the first phase of the AfCFTA negotiations in trade in goods and services, in preparing for the second phase of negotiations in investment, intellectual property rights (IPR) and competition policy, as well as the third phase on e-commerce, and in elaborating their AfCFTA national implementation strategies as per the specific requirements of each island. As a result, IEC developed the Union of Comoros’s and the Republic of Mauritius’s national AfCFTA strategy.

In addition, the project was also designed to enhance trade in services of African States, as well as promote e-commerce and more broadly digital trade and a number of key studies have been undertaken in support of this aim. This includes a study on communication services commitments and the promotion of digitally enabled education services, a sectoral study on health services, a study on the complexities of the value chains of pharmaceuticals and other essential goods focusing on the role of services in such value chains, and a study on intra-African trade in health and education sectors.

Finally, considering the ongoing global crisis in relation to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the project also paid particular attention to the impacts of COVID-19 on African economies and their responses, including in the context of the AfCFTA processes. IEC and ECA jointly developed and carried out comprehensive survey analysing the economic impact of COVID-19 across Africa. The survey took stock of the consequences for businesses in Africa and identified the challenges they face as well as their responses. IEC team presented the results of the COVID-19 surveys during a Sensitisation Forum for the Private Sector organised by ECA. The title of the forum was “Post COVID recovery strategies and policies in Southern Africa.”

Our Strategy and Impact

Negotiating a free trade agreement was only half of the way. Effective implementation was crucial to ensure that the negotiated benefits were effectively passed onto countries. Thus, with regard to both countries, it was important for them to adopt the necessary institutional frameworks to implement and benefit from the AfCFTA. It was equally important for them to build the capacity of the private sector to exploit the opportunities of the AfCFTA. Thus, the strategy aimed to:

  • Provide a guide on how Comoros and Mauritius could enhance economic diversification, promote socio-economic development, expand their trade in both goods and services, boost investment potential by capitalising on comparative advantages and contribute to value-chains both at the regional and continental levels.
  • Mainstream cross-cutting issues including gender, environmental and climate change mitigation, and digital technologies.
  • Provide the essential institutional framework to navigate through the AfCFTA and the distinct measures to be undertaken to ensure Comoros and Mauritius reaped the maximum benefits of the AfCFTA.
  • The Mauritian Strategy to Leverage the Opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA);
  • Stratégie nationale pour la mise en oeuvre de l‘accord sur la zone de libre-échange continentale africaine (ZLECAf) ;
  • The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Market Implications for the Mauritius Economy Post-COVID-19: A Case Study on Manufacturing.
  • Trade Policies to reduce environmental and climate vulnerabilities in African Small Islands Developing States (SIDS);
  • African SIDS and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): Challenges and Opportunities.
  • Study on the Complexities of Value Chains in Pharmaceuticals and Other Essential Goods in Africa – A Focus on the Role of Services.
  • How communication services commitments in the AfCFTA can promote digitally enabled education services across Africa.
  • Sectoral Study on Health Services in Africa – A focus on how trade liberalisation can boost intra-African trade in health services, Challenges in Intra-Africa Trade in Health and Education Services Sectors.
  • Intra-Africa Trade in Education Services – Challenges and Opportunities.
  • Over this period, IEC and ECA also jointly developed and carried out the comprehensive survey on the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts across Africa.

Our Core Solutions

With the rapid proliferation of trade agreements worldwide, there are new market and investment opportunities for countries to explore. At International Economics Consulting, based on our extensive experience in international trade, we assist our clients by providing a detailed analysis of the key impacts of new trade agreements on their operations and competitiveness through an assessment of tariff, and non-tariff barriers, provisions on rules of origin, customs efficiency, the effectiveness of transport networks, and sustainability provisions, among others.
We can help assess the opportunities in different markets, determine the feasibility and viability of projects, and benchmark the wider ecosystem to support business growth. We also support clients in navigating the policy landscape regarding international trade by establishing robust monitoring and evaluation framework through sophisticated real-time dashboards and reporting systems to ensure the best outcomes.

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