by E K Bensah Jr,
*Managing-Editor Ecowas Business News *Deputy Executive Director in charge of Regional Integration & Outreach, AfCFTA Policy Network Secretariat.
After yesterday’s vivacious conversations around the more nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of AfCFTA, today’s sessions were a more cerebral affair, what with sessions on the negotiations of competition policy; e-commerce Protocol; and an overview of phase 2 negotiations.
The session on Digital Trade, which was led by Dr Talkemore Chidede of the AfCFTA Secretariat, was a lengthy session rich in content and reflective of the deliberate journey the Secretariat had undertaken to ensure that the process was inclusive on all fronts.
We learn, for example, that apart from the meetings in November 2021, August 2022 saw the convening of a Regional Stakeholder conference for all five regions, ensuring the private sector had been engaged to share experiences and inputs addressed by the Protocol. This process included producing reports that fed into the negotiations.
Critical to the Digital Trade journey around AfCFTA Secretariat was the actual content: the Digital Trade Protocol has 12 parts and 53 articles, possessing sections on data governance, for example.
For Programme Officer at TWN-Africa Sylvester Bagorro’s part, given the ever-evolving speed of global data, it could easily make a nonsense of any agreements; and it was therefore important to be mindful about making the agreement sensitive to the African environment. Especially at a time the global data has become a site of contestation between the US and China, it was important for any agreement that purposes to support the continent’s digital infrastructure bear these challenges in mind.
Questions included what kind of regionalism is informing the e-commerce Protocol. Could it possibly be an open regionalism, for example, that saw regionalism as a subset of globalisation back in the naughties.
After lunch, there was a session unpacking AfCfTA’s competition policy that sought to shed light on the critical areas around the Protocol.
Expected outputs of the forum include having a shared platform about ECOWAS on AfCFTA Implementation, as well as providing a summary of key issues around AfCftA going forward.
Day 3 will include a 2-hour forum that will be carried live on CITI 97.3fm