Prof. Appiagyei-Atua says AfCFTA framework is silent on human rights

He spoke at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences public forum on the topic; The Human Rights Implications of AfCFTA.

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Associate Professor of the University of Ghana School of Law, Professor Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua has stated that the appears to be a deficit in terms of how rights would be promoted under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). 

He says out of the 33 references to rights in the document, only one has a connection to human rights.

“And that is in the preamble. And so it tells of a deficit here in terms of how rights are to be promoted. Of the remaining 32 references, they refer to the rights of the state, and as Prof. Abotsi has already said, the document is state-centric. So there’s little or not enough attention to labour rights, rights of minorities, women, child labour, environment, and so on,” he said.

He also says that while the benefits of the AfCFTA are usually directed in economic terms, human rights is not mentioned as one of the benefits of the agreement. 

“Various sources talk about the benefit to be derived of AfCFTA, and it is there for us to see – a market of 1.2 billion Africans with a combined GDP of 2.5 trillion, increased in African trade of up to 52. 3 per cent, welfare gains estimated around 2.64 per cent of continental GDP, increase in real wages of unskilled workers, export diversification, and sustained growth. However human rights is not mentioned as one of the benefits,” he observed. 

Even though he acknowledged that the protocol of free movement of persons, capital, goods, and services additionally carries a human rights connotation, he adds that it  "only applies to foreigners, or Africans moving from other parts of Africa into a country. But it doesn’t apply to citizens of that country.”

“Most often, we refer to Aspiration 1 of the agenda 2063 which calls for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, and link it to AfCFTA. But there’s also Aspiration 3, which calls for an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice, and the rule of law. Yet as will be unfolded, the AfCFTA that we have doesn’t seem to have taken the Aspiration 3 that we have very much into account.”

He spoke at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences public forum on the topic; The Human Rights Implications of AfCFTA. 

“To enable human rights to be a benefit to free trade, human rights need to be inserted and mainstreamed into the free trade project right from the beginning, to drive the match touted benefits to be realised. That is, human rights should define the mandate of development or development should be defined in terms of human rights language. So promoting human rights will be a means of its own, as well as an end," he noted.