There have been many important developments on the continent since the official start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021. Keen to stimulate discussion of the ambitious development objectives which have animated the AfCFTA project and their potential to be realized by the effort as currently conceived, the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at Harvard Law School, Afronomicslaw.org, and the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa (FLIA) at the London School of Economics and Political Science came together in early 2023 to co-sponsor a discussion series entitled “Assessing Developments in the Negotiation and Implementation of the AfCFTA”. The first session of the series was convened online by the IGLP on April 17, 2023, and centered on the Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade (the Protocol) which is currently being negotiated.
The Eco Oro arbitral award demonstrates that there is still a long way to go before the adjustments that ISDS needs to make to correct its profound inequalities are taken seriously. This system not only continues to exclude the actors most affected by its decisions like local communities, but also continues to redefine, through typical private law devices, rules and substantive aspects of our democracies.
This new Continental Free Trade bloc is now entrusted with the competence to engage other FTA Blocs such as the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and Association of South Eastern Nations (ASEAN), on trade policy from an Afri-Centric perspective - the essence of Afri-Multilateralism. Hitherto, the various national governments across the Continent had engaged global trade from the prism of nationalistic interests but this new paradigm affords Africa, for the first time, an opportunity to engage on trans-Sahara, trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific negotiations on an equal footing, and not under the auspices of 'emerging countries' or LDCs.
The book traces the evolution of regionalism and regional integration on the continent, from the Organization of African Unity through to the African Union but, unlike earlier treatises on regionalism, Bashi Rudahindwa rightly places emphasis on the role of the legal framework. He draws comparisons with other regional economic integration projects: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Common Market of the Southern Cone (MERCOSUR), the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the European Union (EU), to argue for greater emphasis in the AU on capacity building, and the need to utilize law to support regulatory and institutional frameworks to facilitate trade and industrialization, and interventionist measures aimed at promoting structural transformation.