Document Type

Original Article

Subject Areas

African Trade


Rules of Origin; Regional Integration; African Continental Free Trade Area; Developmental Regionalism


During the first half of 2022, African trade negotiators of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) were locked in discussions on the appropriate Rules of Origin (RoO) on the cotton, textiles and apparel sectors. Rules of origin are generally utilized as a trade tool to prevent the transshipment of goods from a third country into the preferential trade area. This paper argues that there are different academic and policy approaches to establishing the RoO. On the one hand, policymakers can adopt a narrow trade perspective prioritising the objective of increasing trade efficiency and reducing trade costs for manufacturers. On the other hand, the developmental objectives of the Regional Trade Agreements, such as transformative industrialisation and the creation of regional value chains, could be prioritised. A narrow approach to RoO requires fewer variables, while a broader approach is more complex and will require balancing different policy objectives. The latter approach also calls for an inclusive approach to trade that enhances the participation of poorer and more vulnerable African economies in the AfCFTA. The paper offers some policy recommendation and calls for a balanced approach to the debate that liberalizes intra-regional trade while at the same time encourages regional industrialization.

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