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AU: We’d resolve outstanding AfCFTA negotiations

AU: We’d resolve outstanding AfCFTA negotiations
August 13
18:36 2020

The African Union says the resolution of outstanding African continental free trade agreement (AfCFTA) negotiations will be carried out virtually.

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In a statement on Thursday, the union said the decision to move online was reached to see to the successful commencement of trading on January 1, 2021.

In April, Wamkele Mene, AfCFTA secretary-general, had said it would be impossible to commence trading on July 1 of this year as earlier scheduled due to disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.

But the AU said it has made efforts to address some of the issues raised by member states through the use of virtual meetings.

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It added that the AU commission has  “constituted a high-level committee of experts…to examine all aspects of the matter and present comprehensive guidance and advice to the Senior Trade Officials of Member States tasked with the AfCFTA programme”.

It said the recommendations of the committee will be submitted to senior trade officials for consideration when they meet on September 15.

“The Commission believes that for the current AfCFTA operationalisation timeline of 1st January 2021 to be met, and the decision of African Leaders on the fast-tracking of processes leading to the commencement of trading to be implemented, outstanding AfCFTA negotiations must move online too,” the statement read.

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“AU member states have outlined a number of concerns regarding the use of virtual systems, especially regarding infrastructure reliability, security and confidentiality.

“In this regards, the African Union Commission has received with open hands many offers of support to help address these concerns that have come from the continental private sector, notably the African Virtual Trade-Diplomacy Platform (AVDP), itself a part of the broader AVRIVA (African Virtual Resilient-Integration for a Vibrant Africa) framework being developed as a public-private initiative between the African Union Commission and the over two dozen major multinational African corporations and Pan-African institutions operating under the umbrella of the AfroChampions Initiative.

“The AVDP and the AVRIVA concept aim to rally support towards a campaign to keep the AfCFTA on track using technology by enabling Member States to participate effectively and securely in the outstanding negotiations of the AfCFTA.

“This will help to ensure that African countries are able to meet the new date for the start of trading under the AfCFTA of 1st January 2021 as set by African Heads of State and Government, who are strongly committed to getting the AfCFTA agenda back on track after the postponement of the start of trading initially set for 1 July 2020.

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“This is also bearing in mind that all analyses and studies confirm that the AfCFTA represents Africa’s best insurance policy and strategy to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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