The Secretariat

The Secretariat
Though the AfCFTA is driven by its Member States, the Secretariat functions as the coordinating body for all its activities. The Secretariat is the administrative organ mandated to coordinate the implementation of the AfCFTA. The Secretariat is responsible for convening meetings, monitoring and evaluating the implementation process of the AfCFTA and other duties assigned to it by the AU Assembly of Heads of State, the Council of Ministers, and the Committee of Senior Trade Officials. The Secretariat houses experts, notably in legal affairs, economic policymaking, research, and communications, to assist the Member States, among other things, in ensuring easy progress of negotiations and that the rules set out in the Agreement are correctly applied and enforced.

The whole existence of the AfCFTA is to create a single continental market for the free movement of goods, services and investments. The AfCFTA Agreement covers goods and services, intellectual property rights, investments, digital trade and Women and Youth in Tade among other areas. The Secretariat, therefore, works with State Parties to negotiate trade rules and frameworks for eliminating trade barriers while putting in place a Dispute Settlement Mechanism, thereby levelling the ground for increased intra-Africa trade.

Another function of the Secretariat is to ensure that trade policies of the various State Parties are in conformity with the provisions in the AfCFTA Agreement. Where there are identifiable gaps, the Secretariat then facilitates the process of bridging the gaps. It also undertakes periodic reviews of State Parties reports and monitors the overall implementation of the Agreement while providing appropriate interventions.

The AfCFTA Secretariat empowers State Parties and Non-State Parties to implement the Agreement effectively. In that regard, the Secretariate assesses the ability of each State Party and the Member States and offers appropriate capacity-building interventions to enable equal participation in the adoption and implementation of the Agreement.

The Secretariat undertakes frequent sensitisation programmes to dialogue with key stakeholders such as Civil Society Organizations, the Private Sector, Government Officials and Agencies, Partners, and other interest groups; in a bid to create awareness about the AfCFTA Agreement and the potential opportunities it offers, thus, securing their active support in the implementation of the Agreement.

Though the State Parties have agreed on modalities for engaging in trade with each other, there will arise moments of tension that need mediation. The Secretariat has therefore put in place dispute resolution mechanisms for the swift and transparent resolution of possible contentions. The AfCFTA Dispute Settlement Mechanism comprises vital institutions such as the Dispute Settlement Body, the Adjudicating panels and the Appellate Body for second-tier review and other appropriate avenues for seeking redress.