In a week that marks the anniversary of the treaty for an African continental free trade area, signed in Kigali on 18 March 2018, this column asks whether it is a turning point on the road towards economic integration. There are signs of progress: the inclusion of negotiations on trade in services; progress-tracking on removing barriers to trade in goods; easing the movement of persons; and improving hard and soft infrastructure to lower trade costs. But starting off with a small membership that does not include all the big players and the possibility of backsliding under the guise of indiscriminate promotion of regional value chains pose serious threats.
Plans to establish an African continental free trade area are hampered by three incompatible objectives: solidarity across the continent’s diverse countries; large membership to break the curse of small markets; and deep integration to reap all the benefits of close economic cooperation. This column explains Africa’s ‘integration trilemma’ – and suggests that it may in part explain why no North African country has as yet ratified the AfcFTA Treaty.
Conditions in the so-called G-5 countries of the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – are grim. This Brookings column from late 2016 summarises a plea for international action. More funding for day-to-day security and for economic development is urgently needed. And the socio-cultural complexity of the region calls for a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together researchers, diplomats, ethnologists, humanitarians, and defence and development experts.
As part of its efforts to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, the European Union has granted a relaxation on origin requirements for selected products from certain parts of the country. This column reports analysis of whether the EU’s decision can help to provide job opportunities for refugees.