Experts Review Progress on Boosting Intra-African Trade

Douala, 18 June 2024 (ECA) – In Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital today, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the African Union (AU) is convening an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) to evaluate and enhance the implementation of the Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT) Action Plan. This event aims to align BIAT’s progress with the transformative goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Trade integration has been identified as an important driver and essential ingredient for inclusive growth and economic development across the African continent. Despite Africa’s substantial potential, the continent’s share in global exports remains around 3%, highlighting the need for increased intra-African trade and industrialization. Currently, intra-African exports and imports stand at 17.8% and 14.6% respectively, far below the levels seen in Europe and Asia.

Acknowledging this potential, the AU Assembly, during its 18th Ordinary Session in January 2012, adopted the decision to establish the AfCFTA with the goal of creating a unified African market. This initiative aims to foster seamless trade in goods and services, enhance Africa’s global trade position, and drive sustainable socio-economic development.

While the AfCFTA has seen significant strides with 47 out of 54 signatories ratifying the agreement as of April 2024 and trading commencing on January 1, 2021, the BIAT Action Plan’s progress has been limited. The BIAT identifies seven key clusters: Trade Policy, Trade Facilitation, Productive Capacity, Trade-Related Infrastructure, Trade Finance, Trade Information, and Factor Market Integration, which are crucial for deepening market integration and boosting intra-African trade.

The Douala EGM will serve as a veritable platform to review the draft report titled “Framework for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT), Ten-Years After: Progress, Implementation Challenges, and Implications for the AfCFTA.” The meeting will gather insights from experts, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), and other stakeholders to enrich the report’s content, enhance its analytical soundness, and ensure the robustness of its data and recommendations.

BIAT is divided into seven pivotal clusters, focusing on integrating intra-African trade into national strategies, involving the private sector in policymaking, enhancing food products and services, simplifying trade regulations, reducing transit times, optimizing border posts, and integrating border management. Despite significant progress in implementing the AfCFTA, BIAT remains limited, with little information available on its domestication and implementation at regional and national levels.

The meeting will include participants from the RECs, the African Union Commission, the AfCFTA Secretariat, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Afreximbank, the Trade and Development Bank, the African Trade & Investment Development Insurance (ATIDI), and representatives from the private sector.