By Akanimo Sampson
A unit of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), is preparing the first-ever Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to guide on how environmental considerations can be effectively incorporated into the agreement.
AfCFTA was formed by 54 African countries in 2019 to boost intra-African trade and create the world’s largest trading bloc since the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
SEA will identify how to include environmental considerations into the implementation of the AfCFTA and into the so-called phase II negotiations on investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights, and phase III negotiations on e-commerce due to start soon.
The institutional capacities needed at continental, regional and national levels to address environmental issues will be determined under the assessment.
Their latest meeting was organised to present the SEA scoping report to stakeholders.
It also provided an opportunity to hear and discuss their comments with a view to agreeing on the scope and key priority areas for the SEA.
Coordinator of the ATPC, David Luke, in his opening remarks said the AfCFTA provided the continent with an opportunity to tackle climate change.
“Well-managed adaptation to climate change offers an opportunity for expanding trade under AfCFTA through regional and global value chains”, he said.
Director for Trade in Goods and Competition at the AfCFTA Secretariat, Mohamad Ali, said: “Sustainable development is of prime importance to the African continent and the AfCFTA can play a key role in achieving this goal, including through supporting a shift in production patters away from a reliance on extractives and commodities.”
ECA’s Director for Climate Change, Natural Resource Management and Technology, Jean-Paul Adam, said ECA research shows that investment in green sectors is better for growth than investment in fossil fuels.
“SEA will allow policymakers to make informed decisions on how to utilise the AfCFTA as a tool for boosting investments in green intra-African value chains”, he said.
The lead SEA consultant, Hannah Ryder, in her presentation, said “an environmental assessment of AfCFTA was more necessary than ever since COVID-19 has demonstrated the need to establish a more resilient regional supply chains that can better manage the impacts of climate change.”
Stakeholders at the the forum included government officials, private sector operators, civil society organisations and development partners, representatives of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the African Union Commission (AUC), AfCFTA Secretariat, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, and Global Affairs Canada, which is supporting the SEA process and contributing their expertise on environmental sustainability.