Tuesday, February 23, 2021

African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) AND THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS. Faisal Gbadegbe, African Trade and ESG Associate

The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by the United Nations at the end of 2015, seek to develop the living conditions and conservation of the environment especially in developing countries. It also seeks to eliminate inequality across the globe in all sectors.

SDG 16 and 17 clearly recognize the fact that only through the implementation of laws and enforcement of same can we guarantee the SDGs. Implementation of the SDGs will therefore require that countries use a wide range of policy and program approaches. It is therefore pleasant and refreshing to learn that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has a strong development focus, highlighting economic and social development. 

The AFRICAN UNION’s (AU) Agenda 2063 highlights the point that Africa’s growth and integration into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is part of the Agenda agreement. The positive aspect is that African Countries, by signing and ratifying the AfCFTA, will in the long run, have to ensure that their domestic laws incorporate the SDGs; AfCFTA is an indirect implementation of the SDGs!

However, although the AfCFTA references sustainable development in its objectives and specifically refers to some areas covered by the SDGs (such as gender equality and food security), full alignment with the seventeen SDGs and their 169 goals and 230 targets will require addressing a number of additional areas of law beyond those slated for Phase II negotiations. These include strategies to address food security, health (including rules on medicines and medical equipment, which are increasingly important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic), and environment and climate change, along with binding rules on gender, labor, and other aspects of human rights. (1)

(1) Derived from Katrin Kuhlmann, Chantal Line Carpentier, Negin Shahiar, Tara Francis, and Ana Maria Garces Escobar, Trade Policy for the New International Economic Order: A Sustainable Development Model for Trade in the Midst of International Protectionism and Decentralization, 2020 And The African Continental Free Trade Area : Toward a New Legal Model for Trade and Development by Katrin Kuhlmann and Akinyi Lisa Agutu in Geo. J. Int’l L. 4 (2020)