African Trade Forum

Article excerpt

Q Please outline the genesis of the African Trade Forum, and its main defining principles and policy goals.

The Africa Trade Forum (ATF 2011) is the flagship programme of the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), working in collaboration with the African Union and the African Development Bank. The primary goal of the Forum is to enhance advocacy for trade as the engine of growth in Africa, and to put trade at the centre of Africa's development agenda. The Forum will mobilise all the different trade constituencies across Africa to debate and exchange views on the critical issues relating to intra-African trade, and Africa's trade with the rest of the world. The stakeholders who wii] participate in the Forum include policy makers and high-level government officials, private sector (large, medium and small-scale entrepreneurs), civil society, parliamentarians, academia, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), corridor management institutions, export promotion agencies, development partners, gender advocates and the media.

The Forum will deliberate and agree on common approaches and implementation strategies to address key challenges and to take advantage of opportunities in trade. The main outcome of the Forum will be the adoption of an Accelerated Programme and Action Plan for enhancing Africa's participation in global and regional trade. In addition, the Forum will provide critical inputs into the African Ministerial Conference on Trade to be held early December, and the AU Heads of States Summit on Boosting Intra-African Trade scheduled for January 2012. It will also prepare African trade constituencies towards the WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in December in Geneva.

The African Trade Policy Centre, which is the lead organiser of the Forum, was established in 2003 as an initiative of UNECA, with principal funding support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).The main objectives of ATPC are first, to strengthen the human and institutional capacities of African governments and Regional Economic Communities to formulate, analyse and implement sound trade policies and programmes, and to integrate trade into national and regional development strategies; secondly, to build the capacities of African trade negotiators to participate effectively in bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations; thirdly, to generate and disseminate knowledge on trade and trade-related issues, through evidence-based and analytical research; and fourthly, to mainstream cross-cutting issues such as gender, environment and HIV/AIDS in trade policy. The ATPC has made significant contributions to the development and promotion of trade in Africa in these four programme areas over the past few years.

Q Effective intra-African trade initiatives can only be successful in conjunction with the restructuring of individual African economies, thus making trading relationships more conducive and feasible. What individual shifting steps could African economies take to make the possibility of an intra-trade environment more likely and tenable? …