Addis Ababa, 31 January 2023 (ECA) - The Economic Commission for Africa - a think tank with specialist expertise in African and international trade policy - has recommitted to helping Ethiopia’s trade policy agenda that aims to foster industrialization and sustained economic growth.
Although Ethiopia remained outside the regional and global trading regimes for a long time, this is now changing. Not only has Ethiopia ratified the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), it is also negotiating its accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
However, neither the negotiations to join the WTO, nor the efforts to implement the AfCFTA Agreement has been smooth sailing. The political decision to change course and put Ethiopia at the trade policy decision making table has yet to be fully translated into a technical
“The political resolve to be part of these regional and global trade regimes is clearly there, but it has not been matched by the technical capacity to translate this political will to concrete outcome,” ECA Director, Regional Integration and Trade Division, Mr. Stephen Karingi, said at a Roundtable on Multi-partner Support on Trade Policy to Ethiopia organized on the 24th of January by the British Embassy in Addis Ababa in collaboration with ECA.
Mr. Karingi confirmed ECA’s readiness to work with all the partners to support the Government of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian private sector realize the country’s trade policy priorities at the national, bilateral, regional, continental and global levels.
The ECA has supported Ethiopia in trade policy development and conducted the first of its kind analysis on the economic impact of the country’s participation in the AfCFTA. Furthermore, the ECA has supported training programmes organized for leaders and senior staff of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations and the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce. Recently, ECA commissioned the translation of the text of the AfCFTA Agreement into Amharic to make it closer to the people.
Opening the round table, Ethiopia’s State Minister for Trade Integration and Export Promotion, Mr. Kassahun Gofe, said advancing the WTO and AfCFTA engagement were a key tool to consolidate the domestic economic reforms achieved so far.
“In regards to the AfCFTA, it opens a new era of trade governance in Africa, and it must be viewed as an opportunity to implement necessary structural reforms in African countries,” he observed.
President of Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA), Mr.Melaku Ezezew, welcomed the roundtable meeting as most opportune after a lull in action since Ethiopia ratified the AfCFTA.
Mr. Melaku Ezezew, President of Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA), citing the failure of closed-door economic policies which have hurt Ethiopia’s trade competitiveness, said the private sector needs to overcome the challenges of poor access to finance, a weak competition regulatory regime and inadequate institutional coordination which were all linked to poor policy development and implementation.
“Better regulation is a better environment to do business; better regulation is less transaction costs; better regulation is improved competitiveness for the Ethiopian business sector,” said Mr. Ezezew, noting that a bulk of the Ethiopian business sector was not informed about the AfCFTA and the WTO.
Mr. Paul Walters, Development Director at the British Embassy in Ethiopia told participants that the UK has long been a champion of the liberal, open, and rules-based international trading system which dovetails with Ethiopia’s own vision for its future as articulated in its Home Grown Economic Reform programme.
“We firmly believe that Ethiopia’s future is in the AfCFTA and the WTO,” Mr. Walters said, affirming UK’s commitment to assisting Ethiopia build trade policy capacity and foster private and public sector engagement in trade policy development.
Evidence suggests that Ethiopia’s membership of the WTO and meaningful trading under the AfCFTA will increase economic growth, forex-generating exports, FDI and create jobs. Furthermore, this will also enhance the transparency and predictability of its business environment as Ethiopia conforms to international standards on issues like investor protection and customs processes.