New Vision | 27 April 2021
EU commits sh21b towards AfCFTA operationalisation
By Faridah Kulabako
The European Union has pledged to commit an additional €5m (about sh21.7b) towards the second phase of the African Trade Observatory (ATO) to support the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
This is in addition to the €5.1m (sh22.1b) support provided earlier under ATO’s first phase.
This was revealed by the EU Delegation Head to the African Union, Ambassador Birgitte Markussen, during ATO’s second Steering Committee meeting held on April 26.
The African Union (AU), EU and International Trade Centre (ITC) have since been engaging through the ATO to support and monitor the effective implementation of the AfCFTA.
Led by AU, implemented by ITC and supported by EU, ATO provides real-time data on international trade, information on market regulations and government laws.
The second ATO phase will allow broadening the scope of the observatory to cover services, investment, Rules of Origin and other key features.
ATO is one of the policy clusters under the Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) initiative, that seeks to boost the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement.
The BIAT initiative seeks to deepen Africa’s market integration and increase the volume of trade that African countries undertake among themselves.
Currently, intra-Africa trade is only estimated at a paltry 17% compared to intra-regional trade in Europe, which is estimated at 69% and 59 in Asia.
The BIAT initiative focuses on seven clusters including trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade-related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information and factor market integration as drivers for expanding intra-African trade.
The ITC executive director, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, commended the enhanced transparency and wealth of accessible information made available to African entrepreneurs on regional opportunities, following the release of the beta version of the online ATO dashboard, launched in December last year.
Coke-Hamilton further noted that more improvements were on the way given the dashboard will be enriched by an analytical module dedicated to African policymakers and expected to be launched on Africa Integration day on July 7, 2021.
“In the context of the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, accessible and timely information through digital channels is crucial for business success,” she said.
Since its release, the online ATO dashboard is said to have been visited by more than 3,700 users, with strong interest from entrepreneurs in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and Ethiopia.
The dashboard is expected to be enriched by an analytical module in the coming months, dedicated to African policymakers.
The new module will allow duly authorised users to monitor regional integration closely and provide through a series of advanced indicators such as trade patterns, trade performance, trade opportunities, tax revenues, utilisation of trade agreements and border-crossing time.
In addition to revolutionizing access to existing trade and market information, the ATO project is also improving access to real-time data.
A customised data transfer system has been successfully installed in Comoros, Madagascar, Uganda, and Zambia, and will be installed in Seychelles shortly.
African Union Commission (AUC) Commissioner Albert Muchanga applauded this progress noting that real-time data on trade flows will push African trade intelligence to a new level and will catalyse efforts towards a Post COVID-19 recovery strategy for Africa.
He noted that AUC will continue to provide support towards the successful utilisation of the ATO in support of the successful implementation of the AfCFTA.
The meeting was attended by AUC, the AfCFTA Secretariat, EU, ITC, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
The experts said that while the AfCFTA creates a market of over 1.2 billion people, with a combined output of over $2.6 trillion and potential to transform lives across the continent, navigating the changing economic landscape and harnessing new regional opportunities requires a strong partnership and the right tools to guide entrepreneurs as well as policymakers.