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On the 22nd day of May 2021, AfronomicsLaw Academic Forum held a Guest Lecture titled 'Trade Facilitation: The Key to a Borderless Africa'. The esteemed speakers were Dr Tsotang Tsietsi and Mr Craig Merito, who addressed the role of trade facilitation as a mechanism to enhance intra-African trade. Dr Tsietsi, the first speaker, is a Senior Lecturer at the National University of Lesotho. She holds an LLM from the University of Cambridge and a PhD from the University of Cape Town. Mr. Craig Merito is an international trade expert and consultant with over 25 years of experience. This piece will reflect on the issues raised by Dr Tsietsi before proceeding to those encompassed by Mr. Merito.
In this essay, we center some of the intra-African trade wars in context. First, these trade and investment wars reveal the ways in which investors maneuver and respond to the hostile regulatory actions of a hegemon state by moving their investments to a friendlier economy. Our first example between Uganda falls into this category. In response to the actions of the Kenyan government, the investors secured market access in Zambia. Zambia thus became a beneficiary of the trade war between Uganda and Kenya. Second, the trade and investment wars bode well for the future of trade liberalization in Africa under the AfCFTA because this probably points to rising trade volumes between African states. Third, as we show in the context of the examples we discuss, the citizens of States that have taken the more hardline posture on the regulatory measure at the heart of the trade and investment war appear to be worse off in their capacity to generate sustained economic development. Fourth, in some cases, African trade and investment wars are caused by socio-economic conflicts. The xenophobic attacks in South-Africa are illustrative of this example. The xenophobic attacks often escalate to trade wars and retaliatory economic backlashes. Fifth and finally, we loop in the AfCFTA and arguethat the trade wars remain a threat to the realization of the promise of the AfCFTA.
Noting the different levels of economic development amongst AfCFTA State Parties, this post intends to shed light on implementation of Annex 4 to the benefit of all. This is in part due to the fact that the TFA steers away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach and instead introduces new, unique and innovative features to facilitate Members’ integration into the global value networks. Furthermore, I contend that the features discussed could serve as a model to further elaborate on Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) as a guiding principle within the context of trade facilitation measures.
Thus, for purposes of AfCFTA sustainability, AfCFTA implementation mechanisms should: integrate inclusive and participatory decision-making process; retain policy space for national interests; and extend AfCFTA benefits to all society groups—women, youth, people with disabilities, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)—without comprising the sustainability of environmental resources.