Hasten implementation of AfCFTA’s women, youth, digital trade protocols

Initiatives by the AfCFTA could catalyse growth in Africa's total exports.

Photo credit: Pool

Early this year, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) adopted the protocols on women and youth in trade and digital trade. This followed the approval of phase I protocols on investments, intellectual property rights and competition policy in 2023.

The two protocols seek to harness some important benefits to Africans, among them: reduced charges of entry to trade associations by youth organisations, inclusion of youth and women at board level and decision making organs and positions, affirmative action in opportunities, inclusive socio economic development, speedy adoption of digital IDs, access to finance by development and commercial banks and the development of productive and export capacity to improve technical capacity and compliance levels.

The protocols also seek topromote and facilitate intra-Africa digital trade by eliminating barriers, establish common principles and standards of digital trade, transparent, secure, predictable digital trade eco-system, digital skills development, innovation and entrepreneurship as well as development of digital infrastructure.

There exists some low-hanging fruits that can benefit from technological innovation and use to accelerate this growth. These are agriculture sectors, agri-business and agro-processing, clothing, textile and leather and the cosmetics and personal care products.

African governments need to be deliberate in fastening and adopting these changes as outlined in the next phase of protocols implementation. Some of the African countries have already moved faster than others in some areas.

They include, protection of personal data, cross border data transfers, online consumer protection, digital payments, cyber security, digital skills development and innovation, interoperability and mutual recognition amongst many others. Trade will only make sense when there is a level playing field that includes fair levies and taxes in most counties.

As we move from talk to action, the committee of implementation of these protocols should hasten their engagement process with governments to realise full benefits of digital inclusion. Finally, there should also be a sensitisation of players in the industry, including traders.

The writer is in charge of Partnerships Fintech Association of Kenya.

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