Written Evidence: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
African Trade Policy Centre, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Boosting intra-African trade provides a key opportunity for expanding agriculture and manufacturing sectors. This African Union Action Plan for Boosting intra-African Trade (BIAT), including the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), target factors which enable these African exports to become more effective and offset preference erosion.
Trade facilitation reforms must be considered a priority for Africa to increase its trade competitiveness. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has estimated significant benefits for Africa if it implements trade facilitation reforms in addition to agreeing a Continental Free Trade Area.
Despite recent progress on general trade facilitation reforms, Africa has made limited progress on implementing paperless trade. The average African country ranks in the worst performing 25 percent of all emerging and developing countries on the cost of border processing and document requirements.
LDCs will require assistance so that they can benefit from the 2013 Trade Facilitation Agreement. Development partners should focus their support on the most vulnerable countries, particularly landlocked countries, and the fast-tracking of trade facilitation measures in agriculture and agro-processing.
New technologies and tools can help to support trade facilitation, but there is a need to provide knowledge on e-customs and digital trade to less-informed LDCs and assist Governments to upgrade their countries’ infrastructure and enact legislation on electronic signatures and transactions.
A pan-African approach should be developed to reconcile the differences in Electronic Single Window practices and their operation modes to ensure technological interoperability amongst platforms and recognition by the country of destination of online formalities performed in the country of origin.
Interventions should be prioritised to ensure the economic participation of vulnerable persons, including women, in new externally oriented sectors.
In order to ensure inclusive and gender sensitive growth, structural transformation policies should first focus on transforming the agricultural sector through promoting value addition and agro-processing and creating avenues for African countries to compete in agro-based global value chains.
Most African governments make very little use of gender statistics in economic development policymaking. LDCs require support from development partners on the methodologies and data sources that can be used to carryout gender-trade impact assessments.
It will be important to increase female participation in science, technology and mathematics disciplines at universities so that they can benefit from Africa’s future industrialisation and development.
There is a need to strengthen social safety nets and safeguards for those who lose their jobs or livelihoods as a result of trade liberalisation, particularly vulnerable rural communities.
Trade facilitation would help intra-African trade and integration and is an important target for UK Aid-for-Trade. However African countries require assistance in formulating bankable Air-for-Trade projects.
Aid-for-Trade to Africa is currently highly concentrated on certain countries.
The UK should consider technical cooperation with African countries on regulatory reform drawing from the UK’s expertise in designing regulations and institutions that balance improved business environment with the environmental and social imperatives behind regulation.
The UK could consider assisting African countries with financial integration with the UK, particularly in using London’s financial markets to raise finance for both the public and private sectors.