References | Africa, south of Sahara

‘Deepening Africa’s trade integration through effective implementation of the AfCFTA to support economic integration’ implemented by UNECA


Market Development

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Formal trade relations between the EU and AU members span a variety of different trade arrangements, which also reveal substantial differences in depth, scope, and commitment. While the EU has signed several free trade agreements (FTAs) with the North African countries, trade and economic cooperation with sub-Saharan countries is governed by seven regional or bilateral economic partnership agreements (EPAs). These imply maintenance of full access to EU markets and require gradual tariff liberalisation by African counterparts. Despite the emphasis placed on strengthening the EU’s relationships with its African trade partners, the EPAs have been recurrently promoted as a building block for the AfCFTA.
While the EPAs foresee gradual removal of some 80 per cent of the tariffs imposed on EU exports to Africa, “regional preference” clauses ensure that tariff concessions applied to these imports from the EU are duplicated among signatories to the same EPA.
The unit of analysis of this final evaluation is the project “Deepening Africa’s trade integration through effective implementation of the AfCFTA to support economic integration”. With a total budget of €8 Million (CRIS and/or OPSYS number PANAF/2018/402-510), the period of the intervention evaluated was between 15/11/18 and 31/12/22. A No-Cost Extension (NCE) has been granted by the EU until end of March 2023. The addendum is currently allowing to refine and validate additional national strategies during the first quarter of 2023, in parallel to the completion of this evaluation exercise. The expected results or the project were:
a) African countries have ratified the Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA.
b) African countries have developed AfCFTA National Strategies covering various sectors for an effective implementation of the Agreement.
c) A methodology to produce the AfCFTA Country Business Index as a tool to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Agreement, in a way that the AfCFTA brings real value for the private sector operators, has been developed.
d) African countries have implemented competitiveness and structural reforms identified through the AfCFTA National Strategies, including those that would be enabling to women traders.
The EU delegated implementation of the programme to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), under the leadership and direction of its Executive Secretary and with support of its African Trade Policy Centre. The African Trade Policy Centre is a think tank that conducts research, capacity-building and technical assistance activities to the benefit of African countries and institutions. In delivering on this project, the Centre has collaborated closely with all the Divisions and the sub-regional offices of the UNECA.

The main objectives of this Final Evaluation are to provide the relevant services of the European Union, UNECA and the interested stakeholders:

  • an overall independent assessment of the performance of the of Deepening Africa’s trade integration through effective implementation of the AfCFTA to support economic integration project, paying particular attention to its different levels of results and their quality, measured against its expected objectives; and the reasons underpinning such results.
  • key lessons learned, conclusions and related recommendations to improve future interventions.

This evaluation served to:

  • show accountability for the use of EU resources in relation to the results of the UNECA programme.
  • contribute to reporting transparently on EU support in the economic integration and trade sector on the level of the African union support.
  • inform decision-making on the appropriateness and thematic priorities of a second phase of the intervention.
  • inform the next phase of programming in the constantly evolving economic integration and trade sector, and EU’s support to it.

In relation to the ethic rules applied to this evaluation, the assessment design has incorporated the rights-based approach and inclusion, as well as the commitment of all parties (EUD, UNECA, AUC and MS, consultants) to the privacy of information sources. Consequently, based on the ToR, the methodological proposal of the consortium, and the needs of this task as they were manifested during the kick off meeting, the following priorities (among others) were taken into consideration: (i) The anonymity of the interested parties who were interviewed, as well as their privacy, were respected; (ii) The role of cross border women traders is key in the process of regional integration and their vulnerability has been exposed as much as possible; (iii) The evaluation has acknowledged that the project had a strong emphasis on young Africans and SMEs led by women as key drivers of the African economy.