Alan Wolff has stated that the AfCFTA and WTO membership can help “knit together” a fragmented African continent. The Deputy Director-General said this whilst speaking at the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development.
Meanwhile, DDG Wolff stated that the AfCFTA and the WTO “share a common goal and a common heritage – the use of trade for peace”.
First of all, he acknowledged that the multilateral trading system, with its over seventy years of history, is at a critical juncture. This is because the outbreak of COVID-19 is exacerbating existing insecurities around the world.
More importantly, he indicated that the crises has increased social tensions and the likelihood of conflict. Meanwhile, he said that the economic impact of the crisis has hit African countries the hardest.
DDG Wolff noted that Africa is home to many fragile and conflict-affected countries. He said this put the continent under extreme pressure to find the means for stimulating post-COVID-19 recovery.
He also underscored that economic stability has been hampered by political instability and structural challenges. Nevertheless, he warned that Africa must not only meet the challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he advised the continent to overcome the structural issues that long pre-dated it.
Also, he believed that “tackling these challenges will allow countries to transition from fragility to stability”.
Synergies Between AFCFTA and WTO
“The WTO and AfCFTA are intertwined, as are all regional trade agreements. Since they all rest upon the rules of the multilateral trading system. The time is overdue for Africa to gain solid benefits from both regional and global economic integration.
“This must remain a major objective for both Africa and the multilateral trading system. All 44 African WTO members and nine WTO observers are signatories to AfCFTA. And of the 24 countries seeking to join the WTO, nine are from Africa”.
“Regional and multilateral integration, through AfCFTA and WTO Membership, can help to knit together an African continent that has been forever fragmented. They can help unify and amplify Africa’s voice on the global stage in the pursuit of sustainable peace and development.
“It is clear that the AfCFTA and the WTO share a common goal and a common heritage – the use of trade for peace. We also appreciate the work of the Aswan Forum as a high-level platform for sustainable peace and development in Africa. This would greatly enhance the work of the Trade for Peace Program in the continent”.
Steps forward for AfCFTA implementation and Trade for Peace
Mr. Wolff stated that the trade, peace, and humanitarian communities must continually engage to ensure that they bear fruit. He outlined the activities that the WTO has invested in to bring together experts and practitioners across the world. Some of the activities include the: Annual Trade for Peace Week; White Paper on Trade for Peace through WTO accessions.
He concluded that the AfCFTA holds the promise of substantial tangible progress in the pursuit of peace and economic stability in Africa.