Initiated and hosted by the Government of Kenya, this event is specifically tailored for acceding governments in the Greater Horn of Africa region – Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Comoros. South Sudan is also participating in the Dialogue, as it is planning to submit its application for WTO membership shortly.
The Regional Dialogue on WTO Accessions was jointly opened by: Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs; Professor Peter Mbithi, Vice-Chancellor, University of Nairobi; and Maika Oshikawa, Officer in Charge of the WTO’s Accessions Division.
Ambassador Mohamed said: “The conference provides us with the opportunity to reflect on ways in which the WTO membership can foster regional integration and cooperation. This is crucial considering that the priority of the continent is to deepen and intensify regional economic integration … The accession of the sister countries in the region will directly contribute to the smooth finalization of the negotiations and ultimately promote intra-African trade which is extremely low compared to other regions of the world.” Ambassador Mohamed’s full speech is available here.
Ms Oshikawa, in her opening remarks, noted this was the first initiative by an African country for African accessions. “Today, 8 out of the 21 countries seeking WTO membership are African … The Greater Horn of Africa constitutes one of the largest concentrations of countries outside the WTO.”
“This Regional Dialogue is not only a noble African contribution to strengthening the multilateral trading system, but also, it is very timely,” she added. “Accession activities from this region — Comoros, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia — have intensified since the Nairobi Ministerial Conference, especially since the second half of 2016.” Her full speech is available here.
Professor Mbithi conveyed the support of the University of Nairobi for acceding governments in the Greater Horn of Africa region: “The acceding countries are Kenya’s immediate neighbours and we expect to see more cross-border trade in goods and services, and increased demand for skilled human resources. The University of Nairobi is ready to play its rightful role of training requisite manpower for our region.” Professor’s Mbithi’s opening remarks are available here.
Over 80 participants attended the opening ceremony, including five ministers from African acceding governments and acceded members, representatives of the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the University of Nairobi. Several development partners also joined the event, namely, the representatives of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Executive Secretariat for the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Bank Group (WBG).
The programme of the event is available here, where all presentations and interventions will be posted. The Regional Dialogue will be followed by a two-day Specialized Training on WTO Accessions for Somalia and South Sudan. South Sudan’s participation in both events is funded by the EIF.