Heads of state of the Africa Union (AU) have unanimously adopted the Action Compact of the maiden edition of the Africa Prosperity Dialogues (APD), which took place in Ghana last January, involving which took place in Ghana last January, involving the continent’s private sector in the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Africa Prosperity Dialogues held under the theme: “The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): From Ambition to Action, Delivering Prosperity through Continental Trade”, dovetailed into the theme of the 36th AU summit which was “The Year of AfCFTA: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation”.
The Africa Prosperity Dialogues, which will take place annually, creates a dedicated platform for Africa’s private sector to network among themselves and with public officials on the process of getting Africa’s single market working quickly. The AU has fully endorsed this shared ownership approach initiated by the Africa Prosperity Network in partnership with the AfCFTA Secretariat and the Government of Ghana, the host nation of the AfCFTA Secretariat.
The 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union took place from Saturday 18 to Sunday 19 February 2023. The Assembly is the AU’s supreme policy and decision-making organ. It comprises all heads of state and governments of AU member states.
Part of the Action Compact adopted by the AU reads: “We African Business Executives, Senior Policymakers, Business Associations, Government Ministers, Senior Officials from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Technocrats, Women and Young Entrepreneurs, met at The Presidential and Business Executives Dialogue held at the Peduase Lodge, Peduase, Eastern Region, Ghana, on the 28 January 2023.
The dialogue was convened under the auspices of H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana under the theme “AfCFTA: From Ambition to Action – Delivering Prosperity Through Continental Trade.
We recognised that the AfCFTA Agreement would contribute significantly to sustainable economic growth, employment generation, inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development, better integration of the continent into the global economy and prosperity for all Africans."
We discussed on how to overcome critical challenges impeding the promotion of intra-African trade such as inadequate infrastructure (transport, communications, energy, information technology), poor trade facilitation processes, access to finance, and free movement of persons” the Action Compact reads.
The business leaders, according to the action compact after an exhaustive deliberation, commit to take concrete steps in four thematic areas, namely: Business Community, Government, AfCFTA Secretariat and Partners.
On the first thematic area which is the business community, the dialogues agreed to first, “advocate for and utilize the AfCFTA preferential regime under its various instruments.”
Secondly, “increase investment in science technology and innovation to power value added Made-in-Africa production and industrialization”.
Thirdly, “advocate for full ratification and implementation of the African Union Protocol of Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment”.
Lastly, “work closely with the Governments in the implementation of the Agreement Establishing AfCFTA. Business Community”.
With regard to the second thematic area, “Government”, the business and thought leaders called on African governments to “provide an enabling business and investment climate to support the utilization of the AfCFTA preferential treatment”.
Additionally, they called on African governments to “pursue commodity-based industrialization and facilitate the production of high-quality goods and services within the African Single Market”.
It adds, “Invest in infrastructure for multimodal transport and logistics, including air transport services, energy, communication with the support of financial institutions and the private sector to improve trade facilitation, reduce production, transport, trade, and transaction costs.
“Establish community-level incubation centres and adopt an entrepreneurial approach to education, including Technical and Vocational Education and Training, as well as mainstream Applied science, technology and innovation in the curriculum our schools,” it continues.
“Mobilize domestic resources including through sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), pension funds, insurance savings, private equity funds, diaspora and sovereign bonds, impact investing, green bonds and remittances”.
The APD compact further states, “Set up special measures for women entrepreneurs to take full advantage of the AfCFTA, including supporting the #HERAfCFTA initiative and develop tailormade programmes including offering special incentives for youth–owned enterprises.
“Provide tailormade programmes for African micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with incentives to strengthen capabilities, and capacities to accelerate industrialization and trade and lastly ratify the AU Protocol on the Free Movement of people and select a champion to ensure early entry into force”.
Focusing on the AfCFTA Secretariat, the dialogues called on the secretariat to “support state parties in the implementation of the agreement establishing the AfCFTA through trade facilitation, collaboration with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), quality infrastructure, advocacy and capacity building”.
Furthermore, the dialogues called on AfCFTA to “engage with partners to mobilise adequate resources for the implementation of the AfCFTA” and to “facilitate the establishment of AfCFTA institutions, including an Intellectual Property Office (IPO), a Pan-African Trade and Investment Agency, and a Continental Competition Authority as well as a unified and integrated African Competition Regimes on IPR investment and competition”.
They also urged the AfCFTA to “support the conclusion of negotiations on the Protocols on Digital Trade and Women and Youth in Trade by the deadline of July 2023 as set by the Assembly of heads of state and government of the African Union and to “facilitate work towards the consolidation of the Common African Market on the basis of the AfCFTA Protocols on Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Investment, Competition Policy, Intellectual Property Rights, Digital Trade and Women and Youth in Trade”.
To partnering financial institutions such as Multilateral Development Banks, Regional Development Finance Institutions, commercial banks, investors, and other financiers, the dialogues urged them to “work with governments and the private sector to make available attractive and affordable trade finance to support private sector engagement with the AfCFTA market”.
They also called on development partners, including UNECA and UNDP, to “continue to provide coordinated support to governments and businesses to ensure the full implementation of the AfCFTA”.
The second edition of the Africa Prosperity Dialogues is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2024. The date and venue is expected to be announced by the Africa Prosperity Network (APN), organizers of the APD, soon.
Reporting by Wilberforce Asare in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia