Keys to Success for the AfCFTA Negotiations
The ratification of the AfCFTA presents a real milestone for African unity. Whether it will go beyond symbolism, however, depends in part on the depth and scope of the provisions and commitments currently being negotiated. The negotiation outcomes, in turn, will reflect the political commitment African nations show towards intra-African trade liberalization and continental unity. Negotiators must be cautious not to add additional layers of complexity to an already complex and overlapping network of trade agreements in Africa. They can do so by ensuring that the commitments they make in goods and services are as ambitious as possible within existing parameters. For instance, this process would ideally include committing to immediately liberalizing as many tariff lines as possible as well as adopting a liberal approach to negotiating reciprocal MFN. Moreover, to maximize the benefits derived from the AfCFTA, State Parties must make commitments in line with their comparative advantage for diversification and value chain development. Such analysis should look at not only existing trade flows, but also nascent opportunities. Maximizing the AfCFTA benefits will require that governments develop proactive national strategies that will identify opportunities and constraints and inform their tariff commitments for goods and services. In conducting this analysis, national governments must establish a close link with the private sector. Indeed, in setting their scheduling priorities, African governments must be sure to listen to the needs and concerns of the private sector, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises. From these discussions, negotiators must gain an understanding of the sectors that will be most conducive to liberalization, and which sectors would benefit from being excluded or gradually liberalized.