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DSC Golf Course View Hotel

SEATINI-Uganda in partnership with Eco News Africa, Africa Trade Network and Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) organized a multi-stakeholder consultative meeting on the continental free trade area from the 16th – 17th May 2017,at the Imperial Golf View Hotel in Entebbe. The meeting brought together members from the Civil Society Organisations, Private sector, Uganda Manufacturers Association, Ministry of Trade, and representatives from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and African Union among others. Objectives of the meeting;

  • Determining the approaches, processes and critical issues in the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
  • Analysing the relationship between the CFTA and development visions, priorities and policies in EAC partner states.
  • Discuss and analyse stakeholders concerns on the CFTA in terms of job creation, industrialisation, gender, structural transformation and sustainable development
  • Gather stakeholder’s positions on strategic issues that should be given to negotiators representing member countries at the CFTA meeting set for June this year.

In January 2012, The African Union Summit decided to establish the Continental Free Trade Area by 2017, in a self-proclaimed attempt to fast-track the continental trade integration process as per the 1991 Abuja Treaty. Full negotiations to this end were launched in January 2015 and are expected to come to a conclusion by June 2017.

Once in place, CFTA will create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union. It will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across the RECs and across Africa in general. The CFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

The CFTA Negotiations will evolve around issues addressing the NTBs, Sanitary and Phytosanitary standards, Trade facilitation, among others. It is believed that cooperation in these issues will be a step towards the creation of the African Economic Community as envisioned in the 1991 Abuja Treaty. However, the key guiding principles have tended to over-emphasize the need to build on existing trade regimes, including those between African and non-African countries and regions. This result is a tendency towards an inbuilt bias to trade liberalisation and deregulation are the main motor of Africa’s trade integration.

Some emerging issues;

  • Small scale farmers expect to be empowered with information about CFTA to find out how relevant CAFTA will be to them. In its current form, issues of farmers haven’t been highlighted and they have no idea of what is in CAFTA that will benefit them.
  • Currently there is low intra-regional trade among the African Trading blocs. However with CFTA in place, there is a belief that this will all change as the market is in abundance.
  • CFTA is seen as one of the pillars that will drive the continent towards the development Agenda of 2063 of the Africa Union (AU), alongside other continental action plans such as the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT), the Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa (AIDA), and the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

In conclusion, the CFTA is a great idea, but can & will only become a grand project upon inclusion & action being taken  of the views and concerns expressed by none political / none state actors mainly Africa’s Private Sector & Civil Society Organisations.

Cafe Meeting

 Developing economist Fred Muhumuza addressing participants during the meeting on Economiv Partnership Agreements at Piato Restaurant in Kampala.

Ugandan manufacturers should get worried of increasing number of imports from Asian countries instead of worrying about the Economic Partnership Agreements between the European Union (EU) and the East African Community (EAC).

Uganda and other EAc countries have been discussing the EU-EAC-EPA agreements for the last 12 years; some are not convinced that its a good deal like Uganda while Kenya has already signed partly to secure markets for horticulture products. 

EPA flowers

A rose flower farm in Kenya. The EU accounts for 31 per cent of Kenya’s export market, especially for cut flowers, tea, fresh vegetables and coffee. The EPA deal is expected to ensure continued duty-free and quota-free access to the EU for all EAC exports.

A United Nations think-tank has warned the East African Community against entering into an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union arguing that it will neither spur economic growth nor bring wealth to the region’s citizens.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) says in a report that if the EPA is signed, local industries will struggle to withstand competitive pressures from EU firms, while the region will be stuck in its position as a low value-added commodity exporter. “If the EAC-EU EPA is fully implemented, the region risks losing trading opportunities with other partners, industrial output, welfare and GDP,” the 45-page report seen by The EastAfrican says.

The report titled Analysis of the Impact of the EAC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement on the EAC Economies is yet to be made public and is expected to be discussed by the Council of Ministers in the “days to come,” according to sources at the EAC Secretariat. The report, commissioned by the EAC Secretariat, is likely to further polarise the position of the Community’s members on the EPA, which Kenya and Rwanda have already signed.