By Irene Gaitirira
Published May 24, 2017
African policymakers, negotiators and trade analysts are set to discuss priorities for reviving world trade and strengthening their trading capacity.
The two-day meeting in Mauritius–May 25-26, 2017–shall be held to the backdrop of reports that world trade has declined by more than US$3 Trillion, with sub-Saharan Africa’s combined exports falling by about 40%, from US$403 Billion to less than US$250 Billion, since 2014.
Consequently, participants shall “discuss the most pressing trade and development challenges for Commonwealth African member states, in the light of unfavourable global economic and trade patterns, rising protectionism and growing discontent about globalisation,” according to a media statement from the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The gathering, a regional consultation, is expected to take into consideration the outcomes of the Commonwealth Trade Ministers’ meeting, held in March 2017 in London, particularly to explore avenues through which intra-Commonwealth trade and investment opportunities can be enhanced.
African states shall get the opportunity to assess various trade policy options, such as UK-Africa trade relations post-Brexit, advancing African integration through the Continental Free Trade Agreement, and priority issues for the upcoming Global Review of Aid for Trade in July 2017.
The Commonwealth Secretariat says it shall use the opportunity to launch a handbook that it says ‘provides a unique resource on current dynamics, opportunities, challenges and policy options for Africa’s regional integration agenda.’
Titled A Handbook on Regional Integration in Africa: Towards Agenda 2063, the book is based on the African Union’s ‘strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over 50 years.’
It is expected that past and current trade negotiators will convene to finalise a proposal to establish an informal Commonwealth African Trade Negotiators Network during the gathering in Mauritius.
Brendan Vickers, Economic Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat, says, “African countries are engaged in a range of global, regional and bilateral negotiations on trade and trade-related issues. However, one of the major challenges confronting Africa is the lack of capacity to undertake trade negotiations, although many experienced negotiators from Africa are willing to help. This network aims to bring these negotiators together and provide a ‘think tank’ for Africa for future trade negotiations. Drawing on the collective experience, knowledge and wisdom of present and past trade negotiators, the network will help set out strategic priorities for Africa’s current and future trade agenda, assess opportunities and challenges, brainstorm particular negotiating and policy issues, and explore ways to unlock any impasse in some of the negotiations.”