AUDA-NEPAD, with support from JICA, commissioned Tutwa to conduct Capacity-Building Webinars on Industrialisation and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The webinars aimed to create momentum on dialogue around industrialisation in the context of regional integration and intra-African trade. Three Webinars were held on 26 February, 3 March and 10 March, marking Tutwa’s first trade event of the year.

The webinars drew experts from various organisations, with participants hailing from most African countries and some international ones too. They included participants from the private sector, public and regional economic communities across the continent. Within the context of industrialisation, the webinars considered a range of topics focusing on policy-making and trade facilitation; the role of FDI and linkages to local economies; with a final session drawing on practical case studies of African countries’ readiness for the AfCFTA and ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) FTA agreement experience.

Through the numerous back-and-forth attempts to find speakers and send interviews into the stratosphere, our goal was always to have maximum impact. In just one month, I had learned the intricacies of Zoom webinars, how to embed a survey and how to extract attendance reports on zoom. I had built relationships with the graphic designers and various panelists and experts that I’m sure we will continue to rub shoulders with in future. After weeks of planning, and assisted by efficient Zoom Masters Marco and Cindy Jacobs, we were finally able to get the webinars off the ground.

The webinars featured keynote speakers that gave some opening and closing remarks on the work underway. These distinguished guests included AUDA-NEPAD’s Mr. Amine Idriss Adoum, the Director of Programmes Management and Delivery; JICA’s Mr. Minoru Honma, the Chief Representative of South Africa; the AfCFTA Secretariat’s Ms. Demitta Gyang, Head of Customs Cooperation, Trade Facilitation, and Transit; Dr Bernice McLean, Ag. Head Industrialisation Division at AUDA-NEPAD; with Mr George Murumba from AUDA-NEPAD closing of the last webinar.

Webinar 1: Trade Policy and Trade Facilitation was facilitated by Tutwa’s Catherine Grant Makokera and introduced participants to the trade policymaking process and how it is linked to industrialisation objectives in African countries. It outlined the policy-making cycles and introduced ideas about how trade agreements are domesticated, including through industrial policy tools. It further outlined the role of various stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society organisations in the trade policy formulation process. Speakers included Dr. Francis Mangeni, Head of Trade Promotion & Programs, AfCFTA; Ms. Demitta Gyang, and Dale Mudenda, from the University of Zambia.

The webinar also outlined the components of the trade facilitation agenda, including as set out by the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, relevant regional free trade agreements, and the AfCFTA. Participants were exposed to the views of the private sector on trade facilitation challenges to develop a broad understanding of the impact on business from a panel that included: Mr. Elisha Tshuma, a Customs, Tax, and international Trade Advisor; Dr. Richard Adu-Ggyamfi, a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise and Trade Expert; Mr. Tulo Makwati, Coordinator of the SADC Business Council; and Mr. Ziad Hamoui from Borderless Alliance in West Africa.

Webinar 2 was facilitated by Tutwa’s Judy Smith-Höhn and focused on the role of FDI and linkages with local industries, looking at the importance of phase II negotiations of the AfCFTA to support industrialisation. It introduced participants to the developments and changes around globalisation, regional integration, and its links to industrialisation. It outlined the renewed call for localisation and what this means for regional integration and industrialisation in the African context; while also highlighting the need for innovation, digital transformation and technology transfer. Experts unpacked how investment can support the AfCFTA and its linkages to local economies. There were presentations from Dr. Laura Páez Heredia, the Chief Market Institutions, Regional Integration, and Trade Division at  UNECA; Ms. Treasure Maphanga, Director at the African Electronic Trade Group; and Dr. Richard Adu-Ggyamfi, a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise and Trade Expert.

The second webinar also featured a panel with Mr. Tambe Oswarld, CEO of the Cameroon Intellectual Property Awards Association, and Legborsi Nwiabu, Esq. a Trade Lawyer and Private Sector Specialist who highlighted experiences from RECs and African organisations involved in phase II issues, with a particular focus on intellectual property rights. Mr. Victor Djemba, Chief, Regional Division Africa at UNIDO, provided some feedback on the webinar and its importance in influencing the industrialisation agenda.

I facilitated the last webinar on The AfCFTA and Member States, which introduced participants to the developments around the AfCFTA taking place and how it is linked to industrialisation objectives in African countries. It outlined how national governments can align and domesticate the objectives of the agreement towards ‘national AFCFTA strategies’ to ensure effective implementation. This was presented by Mr. Cham Etienne Bama, a Senior Trade Policy Advisor.

What was beneficial from a grassroots perspective, according to feedback from participants, were the case study presentations. The first case study presentation was by Dr. Aladdin D. Rillo, a Senior Economic Advisor for the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia. He highlighted the evolution of ASEAN and its current initiatives, including the various FTAs that it has established with dialogue partners. He pointed to the challenges, successes and lessons that African countries could learn from the ASEAN integration process. The Nigerian case study by Dr. Adebayo Adedokun, from the Department of Economics, University of Lagos, and the Cameroonian case study by Dr. Manfred Kouty, a Lecturer, Trade Policy and Trade Facilitation Expert, educated participants on how these countries’ government institutions, private sector formations and other stakeholders have prepared and readied themselves for the AfCFTA.

As we evaluated the webinars, I believe we achieved the maximum impact we were aiming for. We had good audience participation; the first webinar had over 100 participants online for the entire duration of the session. Those who are all too familiar with zoom fatigue will know that this is a solid achievement for a 3-hour session. Similar levels of active participation were achieved for the two other sessions. The positive responses received from webinar participants are a testament to the commitment of the Tutwa and AUDA-NEPAD organising team, supported by JICA. Moreover, the feedback we received indicated an appetite for continued engagement on this particular topic. My/Our hope is that this is but the beginning of fruitful engagements that seek to address the challenges of industrialisation in Africa through programmatic interventions in support of the AfCFTA.

*Click on the links to access the information from the webinars: Webinar presentations; Recordings for  Webinar 1Webinar 2;  Webinar 3.