Trade is an engine of growth that drives the global economy and a catalyst of development in all countries. It is the most regulated sector in the world, where 60% of global treaties, protocols and agreements are trade related. Countries like Uganda have entered into trade agreements and cooperation treaties both at bilateral, multilateral and regional level in a view of ensuring market access for their exports, reduce their trade deficits and subsequently achieving sustainable development. One of such regional cooperation agreements is the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The COMESA is comprised of 19 member states, a population of over 389 million and annual import bill of around US$32 billion with an export bill of US$82 billion1. Uganda is among the five countries in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African trading bloc that registered the biggest share of intra export market in 2015. According to Comtrade (2015), Uganda’s COMESA Export market share in 2015 was at 13 per cent with goods worth $835 million (Shs2.8 trillion) exported. The Ministry of Trade indicates that Uganda’s exports to COMESA are mainly coffee, tea and spices2.
In Uganda, a COMESA Treaty (implementation) Bill has been put in place by Parliament of Uganda and is up for discussion by several stakeholders. However, the COMESA treaty contains a number of challenges that include among others liberalization, overlaps, incoherency with national development policies and priorities among others which have to be harmonised. As SEATINI-Uganda, an organization working on trade and fiscal related issues, we hereby make the following observations and recommendations on the COMESA Treaty.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – African civil society organizations ask that space be created for citizens, workers, farmers, traders, producers, enterprises, civil society, private sector to participate effectively in negotiations toward a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and to ensure the reflection of their concerns and views. They also made the following demands after discussing the challenges of Africa’s economic transformation and integration and role of the CFTA from 26 to 27 November 2016 in Addis Ababa under the umbrella of the Africa Trade Network. Information on the CFTA processes must be made available in a timely and accessible manner to citizens to enable their input and effective participation at national, regional, and continental levels.
The emerging focus of the CFTA on across the board tariff elimination and deregulation of services must be counter-balanced with more attention to industrial and other policies to build domestic productive capacity. Rather than fast-tracking the CFTA on its own, there must be proper sequencing of any liberalization measures with constructive policies to strengthen productive capabilities in African economies, build domestic enterprise and promote the rights and social protection of workers, farmers, traders, women and all other citizens
24 November 2016
On 5 December, the Administrative Council of the African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO) will meet to adopt the draft regulations to the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (“Arusha Protocol”). As the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, I would like to share my concerns with regard to the considerable negative impacts that the Protocol and its Draft Regulations may have in relation to fulfilling the right to food in ARIPO Member State countries.
It is my understanding that these draft regulations are aimed at facilitating the implementation of the Arusha Protocol, which will come into force twelve months after four States have deposited their instrument of ratification or accession. I further understand that the Arusha Protocol, adopted on 6 July 2015, is intended to provide a harmonized regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights, and according to its Preamble seeks to provide Member States with a regional plant variety protection system to provide growers and farmers with improved varieties of plants in an effort to ensure sustainable agricultural production.
However, it has come to my attention that there is much concern amongst famers’ organisations and networks that the Protocol will negatively impact on the traditional practices of African farmers, in particular freely using, saving, exchanging and selling farm-saved seed and propagating material. These practises, which are the backbone of agricultural systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, have ensured access to and the maintenance of a diverse pool of genetic resources by farmers themselves. Such diversity is key to ensuring food security, long-term sustainability and providing farmers with resilience to natural disasters and the negative effects of climate change.