The Civil Society Forum will meet during the AU Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger. The Summit is taking place to celebrate the Entry into Force of the AfCFTA Agreement and to launch the Operational Phase of AfCFTA Market, which also includes launching the AfCFTA Consultative Dialogue Framework.
Speaking on the eve of the meeting, H.E. Dr. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said that “we are entering the most critical phase of creating the AfCFTA – implementation. This space for civil society to be engaged in the shaping of the AfCFTA implementation process is vital for the AfCFTA to deliver for the people it is supposed to, the average men and women on the street.”
The Civil Society Forum will attract 70 participants to be drawn from African Civil Society Organisations, Civil Society umbrella organisations dealing with trade issues, and members of the AU ECOSOC, among others. The focus of the Forum will be on trade priorities of African countries and participants will consider central themes, including the equitable geographical representation of the African Union, women and youth.
The Civil Society Forum sets out to enhance stakeholder engagement on the implementation of the AfCFTA and to launch the AfCFTA Consultative Dialogue Framework. The Forum will also develop the knowledge and expertise of all stakeholders on priority trade issues related to the AfCFTA; improve regular information flow on trade issues to key stakeholders, and suggest a framework for the establishment of the AfCFTA National Committees; improve co-ordination among relevant government ministries and agencies including through clear mandates and assigning of responsibilities; improve the participation opportunities for stakeholders in the work programme of the AfCFTA; and strengthen the culture of dialogue and inclusiveness.
The AUC Department of Trade and Industry organised the first annual AfCFTA Stakeholders Forum in Dakar in November 2018 where a good representation of African Stakeholders took part and committed to engage Member States in taking action for ratification and implementation of the AfCFTA. Prior to that, the Department took the opportunity to dialogue with African Civil Society through a number of smaller meetings hosted by civil society organisations or the DTI itself. All these dialogues have proved useful in obtaining feedback and views of a diverse range of civil society organisations.
Once all 55 countries have joined, the African Continental Free Trade Area will cover at least 1.2 billion people and over $3 trillion in GDP.
In addition to creating a massive market, the AfCFTA also eliminates 90 percent of tariffs which proponents say will encourage foreign direct investment by creating and easing entry into a larger, single, seamless market for goods and services.