Kigali, 28 February 2022 (ECA): The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) unveiled today the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Country Business Index (ACBI) Report, which is a key instrument through which businesses in Africa can articulate to policy makers their main trade challenges under the free trade agreement in force across African countries.
Issued ahead of the Eighth Session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD-8), which will be held from March 3 to 5 and convened by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Coordination Office (UN-DCO) and UN Women, the ACBI report covering seven countries, is the first comprehensive tool based on robust methodological framework and data collection through which businesses can voice their views on the implementation of the AfCFTA.
In her opening remarks, the Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist of ECA, Ms. Hanan Morsy stated that the AfCFTA Country Business Index (ACBI) should be duly considered as a means to uphold, encourage, and inform sound trade policy in support of pertinent activities of the private sector to develop market opportunities, drive job creation and strengthen resilient recovery.
Presenting the report, the Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division of the ECA, Mr. Stephen Karingi said, “The ACBI Report data and analysis aggregates the opinions of businesses in Africa and articulates them in an index that ranks countries by how well they are implementing the AfCFTA. The Index provides a unique and powerful monitoring and evaluation tool for AU member states to understand the private sector take of the AfCFTA.”
Mr. Karingi summarized the recommendations of the ACBI survey results, which conclude that although scores vary across countries, in general, female-owned firms are disproportionately impeded by several aspects of the trading regime as compared to their male counterparts when investing and trading goods across African borders. “Therefore, it is critical to accompany women using specific policy measures to ensure their active participation in intra-African trade and investment,” Mr. Karingi stated.
Among many other bottlenecks to be addressed, the survey results revealed that trade policy measures need to be taken at national and continental levels to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers and simplify administrative procedure. “This can be done through the effective implementation of the AfCFTA in line with the private sector expectations,” Mr. Karingi noted.
Members of the panel invited to institutionalize the utilization of the ACBI at national, regional, and continental levels, acknowledged that the Index is a powerful tool that can bring together all stakeholders, including the United Nations organizations, private sector, and the Government.
Ms. Eskedar Nega Woldekidan, Team Leader, UN Development Coordination Office, (UN-DCO) said that the successful implementation of the AfCFTA requires reliable data on regional integration status and challenges. She noted that the ACBI is based on desegregate data on trade regimes and therefore has the potential to unlock the AfCFTA potential in all the economic sectors.
Ms. Nadira Bayat, Gender and Trade Expert at UN Women informed the meeting that the ACBI is closing the data gap on cross border trade and can support trade facilitation in Africa and mainstream gender policies in AfCFTA strategies. She outlined that UN institutions, businesses and policy makers can utilize the ACBI as a complementary tool to foster a more inclusive AfCFTA.
Mr. John Bosco Kalisa, Executive Director and CEO of the East African Business Council (EABC) shared that the ACBI results are in line with the feedbacks from the private sector association and corporates in the East Africa region. He commended ECA’s efforts to design and administrate the ACBI and recommended to anchor it in AfCFTA strategies and at the REC level.
Ms. Madalitso Kazembe the Acting President of the SADC Business Council affirmed that ACBI is a great tool that can assist in propelling African trade. She affirmed that the ACBI results mirror the reality of AfCFTA trade challenges on the grounds. The challenges such as delayed transit and transportation and other NTBs in general, which were exacerbated by the pandemic, are impeding trade that the business community would wish to see growing in the region.
On her part, Ms. Mama Keita, Director of ECA Sub-Regional Office for East Africa (SRO-EA), who was moderating the session emphasized that it is important to institutionalise the ACBI in national and regional AfCFTA strategies to support the effective implementation of the AfCFTA through deeper consultation with the private sector and actionable measures.
She pointed out the importance of engaging in deeper conversations with the private sector and to identify the required trade policy reforms. Moreover, the ACBI identifies the main trade challenges for women traders and can help better mainstream gender in trade and development policies.
In conclusion, Mr. Karingi affirmed that the AfCFTA country Business Index findings make a significant contribution to AU Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 by identifying bottlenecks in trade regimes that needs to be addressed to ensure a more inclusive trade under the AfCFTA.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Country Business Index (ACBI) is funded by the European Union as part of an agreement with the ECA to support the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The Primer for the AfCFTA Country Business Index (ACBI) Report can be accessed on https://repository.uneca.org/handle/10855/47540