Charumbira’s PAP Presidency will accelerate the implementation of AfCFTA - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Monday, May 24, 2021

Charumbira’s PAP Presidency will accelerate the implementation of AfCFTA

By Dr. Maurice Ezuruike

The landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is the central instrument that operationalized the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 strategic framework for inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa. The Agenda embodied a set of institutional ideas to tackle Africa’s essential challenges related to integration, prosperity and good governance.

As one of the flagship projects of this Agenda 2063, AfCFTA was adopted with an indicative date of 2017 but became fully operational in 2021 with objectives fundamentally premised on facilitating the movement of persons, creating a single market for goods and services, and promoting industrial development and sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth.

These specific areas of intervention are also encapsulated in the foundational objectives of the establishment of the Pan African Parliament and reflect more directly on its mandate as an organ of the African Unionin its quest to contribute to a more prosperous future for the peoples of Africa by promoting collective self-reliance, economic recovery, strengthening continental solidarity and building a sense of common destiny among the peoples of Africa.

AfCFTA embodies tremendous opportunities for growth and sustainable development on the continent with an inherent potential to create a continental free-trade zone with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD$3.4 trillion. Considering that it emphasizes the reduction of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and the facilitation of free movement of people and labor, right of residence, right of establishment, and investment, AfCFTA will unite all 55 member states of the African Union under a common market with a population of over 1.2 billion people. With a booming middle class and the prospects of eliminating import duties and reduction in non-tariff barriers, AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent and transform it as the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

These tremendous inherent benefits are however fraught with critical challenges that several economic experts have identified as potential impediments to maximizing the full benefits of this agreement. Notable amongst them are the disparities that exist in the level of institutional competencies within member states of the African Union to implement the foundational principles of the agreement, the high level of dilapidated and non-existent essential infrastructural framework, weak fiscal and monetary policy, the lack of ratification of the agreement by some AU member states, political unrest and overlapping memberships in regional economic communities.

The AfCFTA agreement is now in the phase of implementation but its success in boosting intra-African trade will require the African Union to establish an effective mitigation framework for the challenges identified by the economic experts.The Pan African Parliament has a unique opportunity to demonstrate its relevance at the continental arena as the only organ of the African Union equipped with the relevant capacity to establish legal and legislative framework to harmonize competing regional economic agreements, ensure complete ratification by all member states and develop model laws covering trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy.

While the Pan African Parliament is concededly mandated to address these challenges, this institutional capacity must be complemented with substantive leadership endowed with the experience and background to articulate tangible and concrete parliamentary framework for the actualization of the objectives of AfCFTA. The timing and coincidental correlation of the operational phase of this AfCFTA agreement and the Bureau elections at the Pan African Parliament profoundly underscores the need for transformational leadership at all levels of governance at PAP and the imperative of electing a leader experientially capacitated to articulate a formidable legislative direction and framework to mitigate the challenges that could impede the actualization of AfCFTA benefits for Africa.

Chief Fortune Charumbira’s background as an institutional change, performance improvement and leadership development expert demonstrates that he embodies the requisite intellect to sustain the complexity of the implementation of this agreement and is uniquely qualified to effectively initiate the needed institutional framework to advance the implementation of this agreement and promote the continent’s values and development. Chief Fortune Charumbira’s remarkable record of accomplishments at the continental and national parliaments,when combined with his substantial experience of AU processes support the contention that he possess top-notch political skills to navigate this process and meet the leadership needs of the parliament at this consequential moment.

The operational phase of the AfCFTA has been launched with defined five key instruments that will govern the agreement. The key instruments that were adopted consist of the Rules of Origin; the Tariff concessions; online mechanism on monitoring, reporting and elimination of non-tariff barriers (NTB’s); the Pan-African payment and settlement system; and the African Trade Observatory.There is need to develop national strategies to guide the implementation of the operational phase of AfCFTA and to also ensure that the principles of these operational instruments are efficiently integrated into national development strategies and priorities.

Because of the already strong and cordial relations between the Pan African Parliament and National Parliaments in Africa, PAP can effectively establish a platform to articulate coherent guidelines for implementation of the five operational instruments that will govern AfCFTA and for generating legislative underpinnings to mitigate trading barriers.

The Pan African Parliament has historically adopted programmes that strengthen continental frameworks and instruments and has established robust mechanisms whereby members of Pan African Parliament take back critical parliamentary resolutions, debates and issues affecting ordinary citizens to member states.Pan African Parliamentarians by their unique responsibility in the development of national budgetary processes are suitably situated to also reflect the principles of these operational strategies in their national budget priorities and give it more effect.

AfCFTA is at the intersection of Africa’s most ambitious plans to rekindle the passion for Pan-Africanism, a sense of continental unity, self-reliance, regional integration and solidarity to the continent’s dynamic positioning within the rest of the world. The success of any parliamentary engagement in this phase will require a combination of a synergy between the Pan African Parliament and the African Union Commission (AUC) and the right leadership at PAP with tangible experience in trade policy development and formulation to guide the parliament in making inputs on the modalities of implementation of these operational instruments.This synergy is only fostered in an environment of mutual trust and respect.

The Pan African Parliament has in the course of the last four years suffered significant diminution of respect at the African Union level stemming from failures to adhere to decisions relating to our parliamentary administrative and governance processes. There is need to embark on a total image overhaul beginning with the election of a new crop of leaders with the right temperament and integrity to strengthen our position and respect in the continental community. This will undeniably restore our standing within the African Union Community, rebuild our integrity and establish the requisite credibility and cooperation integral to the actualization of the objectives of AfCFTA.

With the election of Chief Charumbira as President, PAP will be getting a President who not only is an honest broker of unquestioned integrity but also understands the importance of recommitting to Africa’s alliances and rebuilding trust within multilateral institutions and organs of the African Union. Since the inception of PAP in 2004, Chief Charumbira has earned a reputation as a consensus builder, and possesses impeccable record of mutually respectful and positive collaborative engagement with other AU organs in areas of vital interest to the continent. Chief Charumbira's dedication to the cause of the African Union and participation at various African Union meetings representing PAP is incomparably unwavering with consistent records and exhaustive familiarity with the AU processes and the complexities of trade agreements.

The absence of universal ratification of the AfCFTA presents a unique challenge that must be rectified if the suboptimal impacts of this trade agreement to Africa’s development and economic transformation are to be derived. The African Union record on the ratification of this agreement reflects that only 35 of the African Union’s (AU) 55 member States have ratified the agreement, although fifty-four AU member States have signed the AfCFTA with the exception of Eritrea. The implication is that while AfCFTA is in effect for those 35 of the African Union’s (AU) 55 member States that have ratified the agreement, the countries that have not ratified will be outside of the process.The efficacy of this agreement will require the participation and cooperation of the entire member states of the African Union. While ratification of the agreement does not require the entire member states, it will however require the engagement of all member states for optimal results. This makes full ratification an absolute economic necessity.

The Pan African Parliament possesses enormous experience in fostering and accelerating the ratification and domestication of various continental instruments especially those that enhance continental integration. PAP’s remarkable success in this process is strengthened by its ties with Regional and National parliaments through its annual conference of Speakers of African National Parliaments and Parliaments of Regional Economic Communities. Through this conference, Africa’s regional and national parliaments are sensitized on African Union decisions especially the legal instruments and the need to achieve speedy ratification and domestication.

This will require competent intervention through a leaderthat could articulate coherent strategies and proffer parliamentary pathways to sustaining speedy ratification of the AfCFTAChief Fortune Charumbira has maintained a consistent record of participation and leadership in activities underlying and relating to the ratification, domestication and implementation of AU legal instruments including more particularly the PAP transformation protocol initiatives. He will certainly bring that experience to bear in ensuring a speedy ratification of AfCFTA by all member states.

Undeniably the agreement’s success in promoting seamless trade across the continent and promoting the movement of Africans within the continent will hinge on developing viable legislative infrastructure aimed at mitigating the barriers to a complete ratification process. The challenge to the quest for speedy ratification is compounded by the fact that it comes in the heels of the ravaging effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond exposing Africa’s over reliance to the global supply chain as evidenced by the significant economic impact from the disruptions to global chain, the COVID_19 has already impacted this agreement by causing a deceleration of the launch of trading under the new agreement with a postponement from July 2020 until January 2021. If not properly managed, COVID-19 could cause further disruptions to this agreement especially in relation to a campaign for a total ratification unless the campaign is anchored on leaders with the right experience, resolve and capacity.

Chief Charumbira has a record of resourceful intervention in moments of institutional crisis and will bring that experience to bear in this period where the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic have had destabilizing impacts to the viability of our continental projects such as AfCFTA. Under his leadership as Chairperson of the PAP Committee on Administrative, Financial and Performance Evaluation (CAFE), he established the investigative framework that led to the reversal of negative consequences of poor financial assessments by independent auditors by restoring the confidence of donor/development partners in the funding architecture of PAP programmes and missions and establishing the mechanism for a structural and institutional readjustment of existing practices. His competence and exceptional brilliance in the handling of this challenge resulted in the return of donor partners and its corresponding enhancement in funding architecture for Pan African Parliament strategic plans. This skill and experience will be useful in this extraordinary time especially as we seek to find a way out of this global crisis while restoring confidence and trust in our institutions functional capabilities.

The interplay with the regional economic communities and the overlapping memberships that exist in Africawith series of eight regional economic communities (RECs) presents a unique challenge on how this new AfCFTA will operate. This challenge is compounded by existing free trade agreements already negotiated by respective members of regional economic communities as well as the regional and national trading arrangements with other countries, such as the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) that some African countries and country groups have  negotiated with the EU.This series of regional economic communities (RECs) that exist in Africa creates the potential for fragmentation and incoherence especially when one considers disparities in levels of regional trading arrangements and the competing strategies for economic integration.These factors illustrate the need for harmonization especially in areas where there is conflicting trade positions with AfCFTA.

The Pan African Parliament is the only organ within the AU that has demonstrated the capacity to assemble regional communities for cooperation and relationship. It has since its inception strengthened ties with regional and national parliaments and pursued programmes aimed at integrating the African continent within the framework of the establishment of the African Union consistent with its foundational objective of facilitating cooperation and development in Africa and facilitating cooperation among regional economic communities and their parliamentary fora.

Through this platform the continent can sensitize member states on the different routes that regions have adopted to pursue economic integration, offer unique opportunity to understand how to accommodate the varying development levels, articulate efficient models, and establish a platform for harmonization so that the various regimes and models adopted by member states operate in a manner that enhances coherence in an already complex trading system.

By creating this platform, PAP has made it easier for leaders of various regional economic communities to come together and review existing strategic frameworks, and existing regional or multinational trade agreements in the various African States, evaluate the potential development impacts and extrapolate relevant factors to ensure that the existing agreements are coherent and supportive of sustainable development in the continent.

The efficiency of this platform will require a leader with the integrity, knowledge and intellectual depth to analyze the legislative underpinnings of the frameworks, establish coherent mechanism for achieving the objectives of the agreement and articulate concrete institutional framework of coordination and harmonization with existing regional communities and trading ties with other partners.

Chief Charumbira has more than 20 years’ experience as institutional change and leadership development consultant in both the public and private sector. He has managed several institutional change and leadership development projects in Eastern and Southern Africa. His experience in managing public sector reforms includes institutional diagnosis, strategic planning, organizational restructuring, job analysis and job evaluation, change management, installation of performance management systems, training impact assessment, and local government reform, among others.His experience in institutional transformation will be an added advantage to propel the success of this engagement and to formulate coherent national strategies and synergy with National Parliaments, Regional Economic Communities, the African Union Commission, and other AU Organsin the implementation of AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA framework envisions an agreement that will continue to evolve over time as more negotiations are planned. To actualize this vision of an integrated and prosperous Africa, the African Union not only needs a Parliament substantially equipped with a functional legal, regulatory and legislative framework to promote continental integration and boost intra African trade by its ability to develop model laws but also needs a strong, capable and visionary leader at the Parliament to guide and articulate a coherent strategy for harmonization and implementation.

With Chief CharumbiraPAP and indeed the continent will be getting someone with demonstrated experience, unbridled tenacity and resilience, and consistent determination to guide the parliament with honesty, integrity and confidence. His unparalleled ability to inspire others with a vision and purpose will be vital in this engagement. Hon. Charumbira has served as a Member of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) since its inception in 2004 and was elected Vice President representing the Southern African Regional Caucus in 2018 with remarkable competence and experience that could undeniably foster the actualization of this agreement. His wide and varied experience at the Pan African Parliament including his current position as Acting President and his proven expertise in institutional development will be instrumental in developing meaningful engagement with leaders across the continent so that we can achieve our goal for a prosperous Africa where economic growth is translated in wealth and employment creation, and guided by sustainable consistent policies.

Dr. Maurice Ezuruike was Senior Legislative Adviser/Chief of Staff to late former President of the Pan African Parliament H.E Hon Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi


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