The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in collaboration with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat successfully convened a three (3)-day Continental validation meeting (validation meeting) to consider and validate the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation Review Mechanism (AfIRM) Proposal. The meeting took place in Cape Town, South Africa from 30th October to 01st November 2022.
The Main objective of the validation Meeting was (i) to further analyse, discuss, and validate, the proposal prepared by the APRM focusing on the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation Review Mechanism (AfIRM) (ii) engage in brainstorming sessions about the proposed tool that will pave the way for future tracking efforts undertaken by State Parties to implement the AfCFTA agreement, and (iii) draw a program for presenting the AfCFTA Implementation Review Mechanism (AfIRM) proposal to the Bureau of AfCFTA institutional structures and APRM structures.
The workshop was officially opened by the Chief Executive Officer of the APRM Continental Secretariat, Prof Eddy Maloka and the Chief of Staff of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Mr. Silver Ojakol. The two principal heads in their opening remarks underscored the importance of the collaboration between the two institutions towards improving development outcomes on the Continent. The opening remarks noted the progress made since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and emphasized their enduring commitment to fulfill the objectives of the MOU. It was highlighted that there is need for further collaboration with other African Union institutions to best utilize available resources and expertise towards the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The validation meeting was attended by representatives from the Federal republic of Nigeria; the Republic of Uganda; the Regional Economic Communities including East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and Southern African Development Community (SADC); the AfCFTA Secretariat, APRM Secretariat; Strategic partners including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA); GIZ African Union Liaison Office; Former Permanent Representatives to WTO; and the Pan African Centre for Policy Studies.
The discussions during the validation exercise were fruitful and it was emphasised that the AfCFTA needs to be supported by an effective and sustainable review mechanism, broadly focusing on implementation. This mechanism will be designed to support countries to implement their commitments and realise their developmental objectives as embedded in the AfCFTA Agreement. The review exercise is likely to be a highly resource-intensive process, for which capacity building at national and continental levels will play a critical role.
The meeting further agreed that while the mechanism needs to be designed to contribute towards compliance of the objectives of the AfCFTA Agreement, it should also be guided by transparency, burden sharing and solidarity.
Having looked at the existing similar processes at the APRM, and the WTO Trade Policy Review Mechanism, the proposed AfIRM was validated. The meeting developed a revised proposal on the AfIRM following the extensive discussions. In addition, it was highlighted that, to support the review mechanism, there is need for the AfCFTA Secretariat to develop and prepare relevant tools for the review mechanism. APRM indicated its willingness to support this process.