Spotlight on South-South Cooperation in Promoting and Deepening Trade & Investment in Africa

November 6, 2019
Antananarivo, Madagascar

The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the African Union Commission organized a workshop on “The Role of South-South Cooperation in Promoting and Deepening Trade and Investment in Africa – Promoting Conducive Policy and Legal Environments in Africa” on 5 November 2019, ahead of the 11th African Private Sector Forum.

“The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is an opportunity to strengthen South-South trade and South-South investment,” said Mr. Jorge Chediek, Director of UNOSSC and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation, in his keynote address. “It could also serve as a significant catalyst to sustaining economic growth.”

The subject has gained incredible momentum since the signing of the AfCFTA on 30 May 2019, representing a milestone achievement in Africa’s rich history of regional integration, continental unity, and deepening of economic ties.

AfCFTA seeks to promote sustainable socio-economic development throughout the continent and provides a useful mechanism for rethinking South-South cooperation (SSC) or perhaps re-framing it in two ways: first, according to the continental scale of engagement between African countries; and second, given the potential for African states to deepen their contribution to the global political economy as well as their engagement with Southern trading partners and investors.

Showcased as a catalyst for the region’s industrial development, the AfCFTA will provide business opportunities in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The promotion of SSC, especially South-South investments and trade, appears critical for countries in Africa and other developing countries of the Global South in order to seize the opportunities laid out in the AfCFTA. The seven priority areas of the AfCFTA – namely policy, infrastructure, finance, information, market integration, increased productivity, and trade facilitation – will complement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The workshop was well attended by over a hundred diverse participants from governments, the private sector, development agencies, and Southern think tanks.

Regional and country perspectives were also shared during the event by representatives from Cote d’ Ivoire, Gabon, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone to name a few.

H.E Dr. Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minster and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, presented Ethiopia’s South-South cooperation experience with China. “China is an important and strategic investor in Africa,” he said. “Being the largest trading partner with China, Ethiopia has benefited from its experience in the development of special economic zones by strengthening industrialization and productive capacity”. However, he added that not all countries have benefited in the same way.

Ms. Lin Yang, Chairwoman of Yingke Law firm in China, indicated if countries in Africa aim to attract South-South investments through the AfCFTA, “transparency of policies and regulations and reinforcement of arbitration laws will need to be strengthened to attract private sector resources”.

Participants also discussed the importance of the digital economy and its potential contributions to South-South investment under the AfCFTA, as well as potential opportunities, challenges, incentives and risks.

Workshop sessions included:

  • South-South Investment and Trade for the SDGs: the discussion focused on regional and national trends with country perspectives and examples of practices and initiatives that worked and did not work, plus future needs and priorities for South-South investment.
  • South-South Investment: Public and Private Partnerships and Perspectives within the framework of the AfCFTA: a discussion on policy and legal issues that are enabling or hindering Southern countries in engaging in South-South investment and trade within the region. This session focused on identifying incentives, opportunities, challenges, and risk management for South-South trade and investments in the Africa region within the framework of AfCFTA.
  • Digital Economy and its contribution to South-South Investments and trade: a discussion on how digitalization and the range of available digital technologies could facilitate the effective implementation of the AfCFTA. The session addressed risks so that AfCFTA delivers on its goals which include boosting intra-African trade, creating jobs and promoting structural transformation for the implementation of the SDGs.

Next steps

The discussions and outcomes of the workshop will now feed into the formulation of a research agenda seeking to identify policy and legal issues that are enabling or hindering Southern countries from engaging in SSC within the region. This aims to inform better policy-making to promote and strengthen trade and investment policies, specifically South-South investments.

Additionally, a research report based on the sessions will delineate the major elements of policy action enshrined in different protocols (Protocol on Trade in Goods, Protocol on Trade in Services, Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes, and future Protocol on Investment, and Protocol on Competition Policy) and annexes of the AfCFTA, and investigate the role that digitalization can play in operationalizing these policy action areas.