The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) needs no introduction anymore. It is arguably the African Union’s biggest project since the launch of Agenda 2063 in January 2013, which is our blueprint for sustainable development and economic growth of our Continent.
The quest for Africa’s decolonization is existential and must therefore go beyond platitudes and rhetoric. The exhortation by Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni on the risk of decolonization losing its “revolutionary potential” is germane: decolonization “comes from within, as a revolutionary concept that speaks about rehumanization—which is a fundamental planetary project”.
On March 9 2018, the African Union Ministers of Trade approved the Declaration establishing the Agreement establishing African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA); a move that marked the creation of the largest Free Trade Area in the World. The Agreement seeks to create a single market for goods, services and movement of persons and investment among African countries thereby fostering intra-African trade, facilitating structural transformation of African economies and promoting sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development across the African continent. Whether this would turn out to be a significant positive development within the continent may largely depend on whether the broader issue is addressed- The continuous inclination of African States to explore the forest rather than tend the garden.
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.
The draft Pan-African Investment Code (PAIC) or (Code) was released in 2015 with the objective of fostering cross-border investment flows in Africa. While the draft code currently serves as “guiding instrument”, it remains a valuable blueprint for solving the long-standing investment problems plaguing the region. It is therefore imperative that African countries hasten their efforts to ensure its implementation as a binding treaty document. The decision to develop the Code was welcomed by experts as an opportunity to create a binding legal framework to oversee Africa’s industrial and structural transformation. The Code was also expected to balance the lopsided nature of the relationship between investors’ rights and host states’ obligations.