COVID-19: African Union leverages digital technology to keep AfCFTA on track

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Ahead of the current AfCFTA operationalisation timeline of 1st January 2021 thanks to the decision of African leaders on fast-tracking of processes leading to the commencement of trade under the Agreement, the African Union says outstanding AfCFTA negotiations must move online too.

 

 

However, AU member states have outlined a number of concerns regarding the use of virtual systems, especially regarding infrastructure reliability, security and confidentiality. It would also recalled that the AU had recently suffered criticisms of not been committed to operationalizing the AfCFTA, after it had in April postponed the commencement of trade under the Agreement –from July 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021 – due to the coronavirus.

Subsequently, the African Union Commission said it had received with open hands offers of support to help address these concerns, notably the African Virtual Trade-Diplomacy Platform (AVDP), which is a part of the broader African Virtual Resilient-Integration for a Vibrant Africa (AVRIVA) framework being developed as a public-private initiative between the Commission, multinational African corporations and pan-African institutions under the umbrella of the AfroChampions Initiative.

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Both AVDP and AVRIVA aim to rally support for the campaign to keep the AfCFTA on track using technology by enabling Member States to participate effectively and securely in the outstanding negotiations of the AfCFTA.

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“To ensure that Member States’ outstanding concerns about the security and reliability of the pro-integration digital platforms are addressed through the AVDP initiative, the Commission constituted a high-level committee of experts, including representatives from Member States, relevant Departments and Directorates of the AU Commission and security and Information technology specialists from the African private sector, to examine all aspects of the matter and present comprehensive guidance and advice to the Senior Trade Officials of Member States tasked with the AfCFTA program,” said a press statement by the AU Commission.

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In a related development, the official commissioning cum handing over of the AfCFTA secretariat, by the government of Ghana to the African Union, would be taking place Monday in Accra, Ghana. It would also be recalled that the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) had in July 2019 selected Ghana as the host country for the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

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