South-South Global Thinkers Scoping Paper: South-South Cooperation and Investment in Africa: Implications of the African Continental Free Trade Area

May 3, 2021

South-South Cooperation has an important role to play and can be utilized to provide African countries with opportunities to influence and direct economic growth and development in the region. Through the implementation of policies that encourage trade and investment among economies of the global South and by adopting innovative methods of development, doors can be opened to the continent’s countries and cities. It appears likely that the recently ratified AfCFTA will be instrumental in bolstering South-South Cooperation for trade and investment in African countries.

The paper analyzes South-South Cooperation (SSC) in the context of South-South trade and investment in Africa following the implementation of AfCFTA. The paper draws from two significant discussions: 1) the African Union Commission’s 11th African Private Sector Forum in November 2019, themed “Transforming African economies through private sector mobilization and capitalization of experiences from other regions of the world;” and 2) 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” organized by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), also held in November 2019.

This paper is the third in a series of South-South Global Thinkers Scoping Papers launched by UNOSSC. The paper breaks down various concepts related to AfCFTA and examines how promoting South-South Cooperation can accelerate the successful implementation of that trade deal. First, the role of SSC in regional trade and technological advancement in Africa will be demonstrated to point out previous gains and losses and point to potential avenues for development. The paper discusses the important role of the private sector and the use of effective public-private partnerships (PPPs) to further promote SSC and investment on the African continent.

The paper’s section on AfCFTA and infrastructure speaks to the importance of building financial and structural infrastructure that can expand regional trade beyond national capacities. Potential challenges of the AfCFTA dispute settlement agreement that may fuel regional inequality in trade and development are also outlined.