Negotiations for e-commerce and digital trade under an Africa-wide free trade pact will be fast-tracked as the coronavirus pandemic heightens the need for a legal and governance framework, according to the zone’s most senior official.
The talks that were to have been part of phase 3 of what could be the world’s biggest free trade area will now take place alongside phase 2 negotiations on competition policy, intellectual property rights and investment protocols, said Wamkele Mene, the secretary general of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Discussions are expected to begin early next year.
“We ignore digitization at our own peril,” Mene told a virtual conference organized by the Stellenbosch, South Africa-based Tralac Trade Law Centre. “We’ve got to develop a very clear and compelling strategy for how we can ensure that our trade under this agreement is more efficient, more dynamic and certainly more affordable.”