The Economic Community of West African States held a virtual meeting on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) for ECOWAS Institutions and Specialised Agencies on the 21st of July 2020.The AfCFTA seeks to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, in order to engender the acceleration and establishment of a continental Customs Union.
Opening the Workshop on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Mr. Tei Konzi, noted that ECOWAS, in line with Article 85 of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty and the ECOWAS Summit directives, has continued to play its role of coordinating the positions of ECOWAS Member States for engagement with other parties in the AfCFTA negotiations.
A statement by the ECOWAS Commission on Thursday in Abuja said that Commissioner Konzi, stated the AfCFTA has an ambitious coverage with a multi-sectorial reach that requires the inputs of experts in various disciplines.
He stated that the main objective of the workshop was to “to improve our understanding of the AfCFTA within ECOWAS in order to enable ECOWAS Institutions and Specialised Agencies to better contribute to the negotiations and implementation of the Agreement”
This inclusive approach, he maintained, will allow all institutions and agencies in the regional community to take participate and contribute to the negotiation and implementation of the continental agreement in line with the spirit and letter of Revised ECOWAS Treaty and the directives of the ECOWAS Summit.
He expressed optimism that the consensus derived from the deliberations will result in the growth of trade in the region and on the continent.
Earlier, Ag Director of Trade, ECOWAS Commission Mr. Kolawole Sofola, gave an overview of the AfCFTA Agreement. He thereafter presented details about its different phases and state of play.
The first phase of the agreement is on trade in goods and trade in services as well as a mechanism for dispute settlement. The second phase comprises competition policy, investment and intellectual property rights, while E-Commerce focuses on third phase.
The African Union Protocol on Free Movement of People will complement the AfCFTA by providing for visa-free travel, the right of residency and the right of business or professional establishment for citizens between signatory countries.
Among others, the Workshop featured presentations revolving around the mandate and role of ECOWAS Community Institutions as well as ECOWAS’ function in the coordination of the position of Member States in the negotiation and implementation processes.
Bringing the virtual regional meeting to a close after fielding questions resulting from the deliberations and making necessary clarifications, including the need to ensure internal coordination and facilitate the process of negotiation, Commissioner Konzi expressed satisfaction with the contributions made and pledged the commitment of the ECOWAS Commission to a continuous consultation and participatory approach to future negotiations and implementation.
The Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) Assembly in Kigali – Rwanda on 21 March, 2018. The AfCFTA will bring together 55 African countries with a combined population of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion.