ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Wednesday called for greater all-rounded involvement in Africa's trade policy processes, with due emphasis given to the success of Africa's flagship trade agreements and policies.
"Trade policy and its effects are too complicated and far-reaching to be left to governments alone and must include dialogue with the private sector through which trade occurs, and the civil society which can play a key role in monitoring outcomes and advocacy," said ECA's Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre, David Luke.
Noting the need to for greater private sector involvement in trade policy processes across the continent, Luke further stressed that "effective trade strategies are a product of a trade policy-making process that includes all the key stakeholders."
"We expect, therefore, to see consultation and dialogue become an inherent feature of trade policy governance at all levels," the ECA quoted Luke as saying on Wednesday.
In addition to calling for strong involvement of the private sector in Africa's trade policies, ECA further commended African countries commitment towards strong continental trading system, mainly through their determination in establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
ECA further called for involving the private sector and other stakeholders in realizing the ambitions behind Africa's flagship trade agreements, mainly as the AfCFTA.
According to the ECA, the negotiation and signing the AfCFTA in Kigali in March 2018 among African countries towards the continent's integration comes "at a time when the general trend is to be protectionist."
The AfCFTA, which has been signed by 49 African Union (AU) member countries and ratified by seven so far, "will reduce trade costs and facilitate business expansion and in the process provide great opportunities for African businesses to gain from, and contribute to Africa's rapid market growth," ECA had said previously.
The AfCFTA will officially come into force once at least 22 countries have ratified the agreement, potentially making the continent the largest trading bloc in the world. The ECA also expressed its expectations that the 22 ratifications required for the entry into force of the agreement "will be reached by its first anniversary next year."
As negotiations and actual work of establishing the AfCFTA continue, Luke said that "the importance of consultations and dialogue among governments, private sector, civil society, parliamentarians and other relevant stakeholders cannot be overemphasized."
"We, at the ECA, believe that it is only through consultation and dialogue among key stakeholders that Africa will be able to strategically respond to emerging opportunities and challenges as well as defend its strategic interests," said Luke.
The ECA further vowed to continue to support the second phase of the AfCFTA negotiations, in which e-commerce is said to be included "soon formally."
The AfCFTA Agreement covers trade in goods, trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy.
The second phase of the negotiations, which is expected to start this year, would focus on intellectual property rights, competition policy and investment, according to the ECA.
ECA is presently working on the next edition of Assessing Regional Integration in Africa, which is expected to focus on a detailed analysis of AfCFTA Phase II issues that include e-commerce, it was noted.
With due priority given to AfCFTA's implementation, ECA also revealed that it is assisting AU member countries on a request basis to prepare country-specific AfCFTA National Strategies.
The AfCFTA National Strategies complement the country's trade policies and identify the key trade opportunities, current constraints and steps required for it to take full advantage of national, regional and global markets, according to the ECA.