It is important that the Global South countries and particularly African countries device approaches that aim at entrenching integration in their own regions. This is absolutely crucial now that African States have the ambition of increasing intra- African trade. Secondly, African governments need to approach FTA and EPAs with the countries in Global North with extra caution and with their development needs, economic situations, and integration ambitions in mind.
Southern African Customs Union
Kenya’s negotiations with the United States while the African Union is in ongoing negotiations on a future agreement between African countries and the European Union that raises similar issues because of the upcoming expiration of the Cotonou Agreement, makes this an important period, perhaps a transitional moment in Africa’s trading relationship with the West. A lot is at stake and Kenya is right in the middle of it.
While the AfCFTA is most probably the next best thing in terms of economic benefits (for instance, huge trade volumes and larger financial flows) since states on the continent created the AU itself, it poses certain dangers. In particular, like SACU, the CCU envisaged in the AfCFTA Agreement will likely injure the economies of some of its member states. And, unless the AU delegates custom-design it carefully, bearing in mind the policy choices brought up in this piece and in older regional trade agreements, the CCU can prove prohibitively costly.
In July 2019, the African International Economic Law Network (AfIELN), held its Fourth Biennial Conference under the theme “Africa and International Economic Law in the 21st Century” at the Strathmore University Law School (Nairobi, Kenya). This symposium contains some of the papers presented at this conference in their abridged forms. Before introducing the authors’ views on this Conference’s broader theme, we provide the important context under which the Conference took place.
“Not acceptable at this level”, a professor commented on one of my exam questions that asked students to “[d]escribe the salient features of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).” This happened in 2017 at the University of Namibia (UNAM) where, until last year, I taught the International Economic Law module, a module pitched at the level of a bachelor honors degree. The professor – an academic from a leading South African university hired to moderate examination papers from UNAM’s Faculty of Law – recommended that I tweak my question as follows: “Discuss the validity of the Southern African Customs Union in the WTO framework”.
It is clear that over the past decade, there is perhaps no other African country that has made such large concessions to the United States as Morocco has. By first adjusting its intellectual property laws, and now allowing the importation of American poultry despite concerns for its domestic market, Morocco's has affirmed its loyalty to its trade partner. By contrast, countries such as South Africa, which refused the U.S.'s intellectual property law requirements and implemented anti-dumping tariffs against American poultry, are moving in the opposite direction of liberalized free trade with the United States particularly with regard to poultry.
Africa is currently at a risk of reaching the zenith of bilateralism/regionalism in terms of the number of regional trade agreements (RTAs) present in the continent. Yet the advantages of close economic integration have not yet been adequately witnessed in African Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs). Moreover, it is generally the case that each African state is a member to at least two or more RTAs. This has created the quintessential spaghetti bowl on the continent.
Regional integration requires not only the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, but also the removal of impediments that cause the physical movement of goods across borders to be slow and costly. These impediments may arise due to defects in policies, laws or procedures. Thus, trade should not only be liberalised, but it also needs to be facilitated. The World Trade Organization (WTO) defines trade facilitation as “the simplification, modernization and harmonization of export and import processes.” Six of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are land-locked (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Therefore, inefficiency and high costs in cross-border trade have detrimental impacts on their ability to participate in global, as well as in regional trade. SADC states are parties to several agreements that aim at facilitating trade. However, the implementation of obligations remains a chronic challenge.