Online expert workshops: Advancing EU-Africa cooperation in light of the African Continental Free Trade Area

On the 17th and 24th June, the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) – together with the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) – organised two online expert workshops on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and its implications for EU-Africa cooperation. Once operational, the AfCFTA will be the largest free trade area worldwide and it has the long-term potential to address many overarching development challenges in Africa, including the fight against poverty and underemployment. On the road to realising these benefits, however, AfCFTA member states will have to confront several challenges, such as the elimination of persistent non-tariff barriers and across- and within-country structural adjustment costs induced by the trade agreement. While the AfCFTA is an important step towards the longstanding vision of an economically integrated Africa, it also provides a new entry point for increased EU-Africa development cooperation support.

During the two online expert workshops, representatives from African and European institutions and other international organisations, members of civil society, the private sector, academia and think tanks discussed the challenges for stronger trade cooperation among African countries, reflecting also on the role of the EU in that context. While acknowledging that the EU has expressed keen interest of providing development cooperation support, participants shared the view that the responsibility for effective implementation and, with this, the success of the AfCFTA lies at the national level of its members. Given limited administrative capacities to effectively implement the AfCFTA and supporting policies across many AfCFTA member states, the EU and other external partners should thus align their initiatives to specifically address the needs of African countries and sufficiently coordinate their support in view of the AfCFTA’s core objectives. Africa’s private sector plays a crucial role in translating the AfCFTA from an institutional framework into practical utilisation on the ground, hence special emphasis should be given to supporting their productive and trading capabilities.

The lessons gathered during the online workshops will be incorporated into a policy brief that seeks to inform the policy process leading up to the AU-EU Summit planned to take place in October 2020.

Both events are part of a series of policy briefs and online events ahead of the AU-EU summit, jointly organised by DIE, ACET, and ECDPM.

Link to the workshops:

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – how to make it a game changer?

How can the EU contribute to making the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) work?