Following the launch of the five operational instruments being used to govern the first phase of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA), the African Union (AU) has developed three protocols needed to be implemented to safeguard the second phase of the agreement.
The three protocols include investment policy, competition policy and intellectual property with the timeline set for concluding negotiations of the second phase being December 2020.
This was revealed by Dr. David Luke, Coordinator, African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) – one of the key AfCFTA implementing institutions, in Accra on Monday during a three-day consultative National Conference designed to focus Ghana’s collective efforts on specific actions and policies needed to be taken in Ghana to implemented the agreement.
Investment protocol is the first component designed under the second phase of the agreement. Under this, the AU is pushing for the need to have common and legally binding investment rules and treaties among countries to ensure a level playing field for member countries.
This has become necessary because although currently, the AU has in place a Pan- African investment code, it is not legally binding among member countries.
“Under investment, what we want to avoid in the market is a race to the bottom; that is, we have the market, but we are cutting deals to bring in investors and, in that way, undermining each other country in the process”, Dr. Luke explained.
With regards to competition policy, there is an existing African Competition Forum that is already engaged in corporate activities on the continent.
Currently the competition legislation on the continent is not sufficient, according to the AU. For instance, 23 African countries have competition laws enforced with “competent authorities”, but 17 have no competition laws in place, while 10 have instituted competition laws, but have no authority to enforce them. Four countries have competition laws in advanced state of preparation.
What the African Union seeks to implement regarding competition policy is to bring such competition laws together into a coherent whole and initiate effective steps for member countries to harness the benefits of the agreement as well as build upon the initiatives implemented at the sub-regional economic communities level.
Throwing more light, Dr. Luke noted that the AU is aware of cross border anti-competition practices such as cartels, abuse of market share dominance as well as other harmful practices that impact on consumers and these have the potential to destabilize the agreement.
“The objective will be to have a competition protocol that will be to enforce the provision of fair practices in competition protocol which will cover the whole continent”, he reiterated.
Measures are being instituted by parties and stakeholders to implement the third component of the second phase, which is intellectual property protocol.
Instituting tools of modern intellectual property protocol that will be binding among member countries is expected to protect peoples’ innovations, knowledge products as well as encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods.
Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Alan Kyerematen has expressed optimism on the design and implementation of the protocols, stressing that such policies will enable African countries harness the benefits of the AfCFTA.
“If we want to trade together in a single market free trade area, then obviously you cannot sustain such activities unless you harmonies these competition policies of different countries and the investment treaties that we are signing”, he noted.