Tea break has just ended and Mr Mohamed Ali, of Afcfta Secretariat, Director of Trade in Goods and Services, is making a presentation on Guided Trade Initiative.
Before this session, the room was presented with a series of animated comments and questions all pointing to concerns around Freedom of Movement Protocol.
Although Director Ali spoke to security concerns, some of us were concerned it sounded like an aloofness coming from the AU that should be concerned about movement of persons.
In a private bilateral, Director Ali explained that it was important to not “overload” the AfCFTA to the point that its core mandate is lost on supporting Member States on Goods and services.
There was a small win, as averred by Special adviser to the Secretary-General Peter Serwonu, as movement of business persons was being facilitated under AfCFTA.
As part of his response to the significant concerns around freedom of movement Protocol and how that had barely moved for ordinary citizens, Peter explained that in 2024, new partnerships meant that the world would witness greater conversations around AfCFTA-SAATM-FMP.
In a response to my question to the afCFTA Secretariat officials, where I asked about the state of play on a report referenced by AU Commissioner Albert Muchanga , both Peter and Director Mohammed Ali pointed to the fact that it was important to allow the FTA dynamic under AfCfTA to work, and slowly phase in the African Continental Customs Union.
What was noteworthy about their response was the fact that the existing protocols (in investment; competition policy; digital trade, etc) are all elements pointing to a common market already, but it was important to allow AfCFTA Trading to play out, including market access.
In all, one can say with certainty that AfCFTA Secretariat has been presented with concerns around freedom of movement in a robust way that may help inform how they influence the conversation in their synergistic work with partners keen to amplify the very critical conversations around freedom of movement on the continent.