(AfIELN Newsletter. Issue 1, 2023)
As the theme for the forthcoming 6th Biennial Conference of the Society of International Economic Law (SIEL) – African International Economic Law Network (AfIELN) highlights, international economic law is in an era of multiple crises. We are witnessing political, social, economic and environmental disruptions. In Africa, there are increases in conflicts, coups, electoral irregularities, environmental degradation, hyperinflation and sovereign debt defaults. Amidst the crises, the African Union (AU) is actively promoting its Agenda 2063 to harness the manifold untapped human and natural resources in Africa to deliver sustainable social and economic development on the continent.
In particular, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063, seeks to boost intra-Africa trade across all sectors of Africa’s economy. Core sectors that have shown immense growth potentials in Africa in the last decade, including agriculture, automotive, creative/cultural industries, e-commerce, finance, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and transportation are at the forefront of the AU/AfCFTA project. The AfCFTA has successfully concluded the negotiations of Protocols on Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Customs & Trade Facilitation, Investment, Competition Policy, Intellectual Property Rights and Dispute Settlement and it is on track to conclude Protocols on Digital Trade and Women & Youths to expediate the elimination of trade barriers in Africa. 54 AU member states have signed the AfCFTA Agreement and 46 of them have deposited their instruments of ratification.
While the AU tenaciously pursues the realisation of its vision for Africa, AfIELN provides a platform that brings together different constituencies including academics, government officials, practitioners, policy experts, civil society organisations (CSOs), researchers and students to develop African-centred positions and solutions to its challenges. Along with the AU, AfIELN desires to see an integrated, peaceful, prosperous and resilient Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena; An Africa that respects human rights, justice and the rule of law.
One central way AfIELN contributes to this vision is through the production of high-quality open-access African-focused research and publications in partnership with Afronomicslaw.org. To discuss pertinent issues and support members as they advance in their careers and studies, AfIELN organises a series of targeted events, workshops and masterclasses. For example, AfIELN is pleased to co-sponsor the American Society of International Law (ASIL) Global Engagement Series (African Region) event “The Prospects for Electoral Democracy in 2023: Africa’s Elections, Courts and Rise of Authoritarianism” scheduled for 10 March 2023.
As we count down to our 6th Biennial Conference scheduled for 21 to 24 June 2023 at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), I look forward to the skill development sessions, robust informed discussions and concrete action plans/proposals for Africa that we will generate. I am extremely grateful to the excellent AfIELN Advisory Board, Executive Team (Tsotang Tsietsi, Regis Simo, Suzzie Onyeka and Harrison Mbori), Conference Planning Committee (Ashimizo Afadameh, Kevin Kipchirchir, Loubna Halmaoui, Joseph Fajimokun, Sharon Nyaga and Kayode Olude) and GIMPA Faculty of Law Team (Dean Kwaku Agyeman-Budu and Humu-Annie Seini) for their generous service to AfIELN.
In closing, I am reminded of the African proverb, “not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but she who caught it chased it.” In reference to AfIELN, this is loosely translated to mean that our research, publications and events may not immediately lead to legal and policy reforms or the AU’s Agenda 2063, but we cannot achieve these outcomes if we do not try.