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Expert cautions against AfCFTA guide trade lasting too long

A leading trade law expert has cautioned against guided trade under African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) lasting too long.

The expert explained that several countries trading in a limited number of products for too long will not yield the expected benefit envisaged under AfCFTA.

Gerhard Erasmus, Professor Emeritus of the Law Faculty at the University of Stellenbosch advocated for all party states to drive the AfCFTA themselves saying “AfCFTA must be state-driven and not guided trade”.

Prof. Emeritus Erasmus is the Founder of Trade Law Center (tralac), a leading independent think tank that builds trade-related capacity in Africa and assists countries to improve trade governance and inclusive policy processes.

Addressing trade experts and trade lawyers during the 2022 tralac Annual Conference in Kenya, he advised governments of AfCFTA party states to be prepared to own the implementation instead of leaving it to the Secretariat to only guide a few countries and limited products to move across regions.

He said it is an undeniable fact that “if you put together 54 countries which are at different levels of economic development, you are bound to face a very complicated and challenging task since their needs and interests are different”.

Prof. Emeritus Erasmus argued that AfCFTA must be party-state-driven once a comprehensive framework of the agreement is concluded in order to celebrate its success.

He underscored the need for balancing sovereignty with a collective voice in achieving a continental goal.

He said the nations treasure their sovereignty for very good reasons including colonization and decolonization which have certainly impaired several processes.

“If you put a number of heads of states in a room with each representing a sovereign state and they take decisions on the basis of consensus and eventually conclude all outstanding instruments to produce a comprehensive AfCFTA, then they and their party states have the responsivity to implement the agreement without resorting to a guide trade initiative for the implementation of such an agreement,” he said.

The Trade Law Professor Emeritus defined a free trade area as the arrangement for liberalizing trade in goods and services because it is comprehensive while retaining policy space for the individual state parties.

The AfCFTA Guide Trade Initiative is a process where the AfCFTA Secretariat in collaboration with the National AfCFTA Offices guide selected businesses with specific limited products to trade from one party state to another preferably across different regional economic communities in Africa.

It is believed that The AfCFTA’s practical implementation solutions and tools such as the guided trade can play a crucial role in responding to the current ongoing uncertainty in the international community.

According to AfCFTA Secretariat, the GTI, is a solution-based approach to support State Parties that are ready to trade under the AfCFTA which will then serve as a proof of concept to allow the interested group of State Parties to start and sustain the momentum of trading under the preferences of the AfCFTA Agreement.


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