The Regional Dialogue takes place at a time of positive developments on the African continent and within the Horn of Africa region specifically. The continent made history with the official signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government held on 21 March 2018, in Kigali, Republic of Rwanda. Forty-four out of 55 African Union member states, including all nine African acceding states, signed the AfCFTA consolidated text.
Additionally, the Horn of Africa has witnessed the cessation of decades-long hostilities and the restoration of severed diplomatic ties amongst states in the region - notably between Eritrea and Ethiopia as well as between Eritrea and Djibouti. The prospects for peace are also a reality for South Sudan, following the signing of a historic peace agreement between the government and the main rebel factions in September. Finally, economic sanctions that had been imposed on Eritrea by the UN Security Council nearly a decade ago were lifted.
The Regional Dialogue was opened by Djibouti's Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed, WTO Deputy Director-General Ambassador Alan Wm. Wolff, Director of the WTO Accessions Division Ms Maika Oshikawa and ITC's Chief for Trade Facilitation and Policy for Business, Mr Rajesh Aggarwal. The programme of the event is available here.
In his opening remarks, the Djiboutian Prime Minister said that the "Trade for Peace" initiative will provide a platform for rich discussions and "allow our respective countries to have the necessary basis to promote economic development based on long-term stability, regional integration and market expansion." Full speech here (in French).
DDG Wolff noted: "Recently acceded LDCs, such as Afghanistan, Liberia and Yemen, have used the rigorous accession process to establish credible economic and legal systems to promote transparency, the rule of law and good governance. The current set of acceding governments, many of which faced specific challenges associated with fragility and conflict, can heavily benefit from their experiences. It is for this reason that platforms such as this Regional Dialogue remain invaluable. By launching a platform for interaction among accession negotiators, it seeks to create an enabling environment that sparks conversations, enriches debates, and encourages the exchange of useful information." Full speech here.
Ms Oshikawa added that "the Regional Dialogue provides a platform to discuss wide ranging accession-related issues and is indeed an opportunity for acceding governments in the region to come together once a year and partake in experience sharing. This event is the outcome of the first Regional Dialogue which was initiated and hosted by the Government of Kenya in August 2017."
Over 80 participants are taking part in the Regional Dialogue. This includes ministers from African acceding governments, representatives of the Djiboutian Government, chairs of accession working parties, representatives from WTO Article XII members and private sector participants from the respective acceding governments.
Several development partners have also joined the event, including representatives of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), the Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (TRAPCA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank Group (WBG). The Regional Dialogue will be followed by a one-day Specialized Training on 'Launching a National Brand' organized by ITC.
Learn how the WTO accession process works here.