In the vast landscape of African regional integration, Tutwa has garnered a solid reputation for its contributions to policy formulation on African regional integration, economic growth, and trade facilitation[1]. At the heart of Tutwa’s mission is to assist clients in overcoming trade barriers and investment constraints, thereby fostering regional trade. One of the ways it has sought to achieve this is by creating the Regional Trade Network (TradeNetwork), a platform aimed at cooperative research, advice, and knowledge sharing in the realm of international trade and investment. This blog explores the journey of Tutwa and the TradeNetwork, highlighting its pivotal role in shaping the African economic landscape.

TradeNetwork: A Catalyst for African Advancement

Launched in October 2022, TradeNetwork can potentially become a transformative force in regional integration. TradeNetwork is cementing itself as a vital partner in numerous regional integration initiatives. Its primary objective is to identify and implement trade and investment solutions while addressing barriers to regional trade, making it an indispensable tool for driving economic development.

TradeNetwork focuses on key Regional Economic Communities (RECs) such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), acknowledging the building-blocks approach to continental integration adopted by the AFCFTA Secretariat.

Webinars and Training Sessions: Empowering Knowledge and Collaboration

Tutwa has organized a series of webinars and training sessions that explore critical aspects of international trade, investment, intellectual property, and trade dispute resolution. These sessions serve as platforms for political, economic, and legal discourse on emerging trade and investment developments in Africa, with a special focus on aligning the network with the AfCFTA. TradeNetwork’s inaugural webinar, “Current and Future Prospects of the AfCFTA,” gathered Africa’s foremost policy thinkers to discuss the practical and legal implications of the AfCFTA for intra-African trade. This engaging event set the stage for further exploration of the AfCFTA’s potential.

In a subsequent webinar, titled “Integrating National, Regional, and Continental Industrial Strategy to Execute Development under the AfCFTA,” the TradeNetwork turned its attention to industrialization policies within the African Union (AU) and RECs. By analysing ongoing policies and initiatives, the webinar shed light on the mechanisms driving development and provided insights into supporting the agenda effectively.

Building a Solid Foundation: Harnessing the AfCFTA’s Full Potential

A key objective of the network is to bring together academics, practitioners, and consultants to contribute to economic integration and enhance collaboration around African development. TradeNetwork also organized a series of successful training sessions to empower participants in understanding the opportunities and challenges posed by the AfCFTA.

The first training session, held in collaboration with Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Africa Trade and Investment (ATI) programme, sought to unlock the complexities of regulatory convergence. This session, titled “Unlocking the complexities of regulatory convergence under the AfCFTA,” laid a robust foundation for the subsequent training on the AfCFTA’s Phase II Protocols, hosted in Mauritius. In line with the AfCFTA’s focus on inclusivity, the training emphasised the role of women, youth, and Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in trade. It also provided an in-depth understanding of the rapidly evolving regulatory environments under the AfCFTA Agreement.

The second training session focused on “Harnessing the AfCFTA: Empowering Trade and Investment through Digital Trade, Intellectual Property, and Competition”. Organized as part of the ATI programme and facilitated by Tutwa, this session focused on the background, context, opportunities, and challenges of the AfCFTA.

Transforming African Trade for Agricultural Development

An upcoming webinar titled “Transforming African Trade: Unleashing the Power of AfCFTA for Agricultural Development” will be hosted in the coming weeks. Focused on the commitments made by global leaders at the 2023 Dakar 2 Summit, which emphasised food sovereignty and resilience, this webinar aims to build momentum in the field of food security. By exploring innovative approaches to agricultural development and promoting sustainable practices, TradeNetwork continues to spearhead initiatives that contribute to the upliftment of African economies.

TradeNetwork Advisory Board

In the future, the TradeNetwork aims to establish the TradeNetwork Advisory Board as a central pillar of its work. The board will provide strategic advice, recommendations, and support to the TradeNetwork. Its primary objective will be to facilitate well-informed decision-making and policy development on African international trade and investment matters, utilizing evidence-based approaches.

To achieve this, the TradeNetwork Advisory Board will actively cultivate a strong network of stakeholders, including representatives from the private sector, academia, practitioners, and consultants. By fostering collaboration and integration with the African AfCFTA, the Board will recognize the importance of leveraging the resources of institutions like the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and other entities operating under the African Union (AU). This collaborative effort will culminate in the formulation of a comprehensive African economic growth strategy, propelling the continent towards unprecedented levels of economic prosperity and fostering robust intracontinental cooperation.