OCTOBER 6, 2020
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a strategic framework to drive trade and create prosperity in the continent by enabling free movement of business, persons and investments. Trading based on the agreement which entered into force on 30th May, 2019 for 24 countries that had ratified it, was expected to commence on July 1st, 2020 but has been moved to January 1st 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Access to information is critical for the success of AfCFTA. It is worthy to note that copyright laws that inhibit, or do not explicitly allow the sharing of information resources across borders, or do not support digital lending, sharing and replication of information materials by libraries, museums, archives and educational institutions, mean that access to information is hindered. In comparison with other continents, Copyright laws in different African countries have been noted to have the lowest prevalence of copyright exceptions that enable libraries, archives, museums and other educational institutions to lend, share and replicate information materials digitally. This is quite limiting especially as the COVID-19 crisis which necessitated the migration of information for all engagements to online spaces has taught everyone.
AfLIA and IFLA in recognition of the possibilities created by AfCFTA for the negotiation of an Intellectual Property Protocol for the Free Trade Area have written to His Excellency, Mr. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General, African Continental Free-Trade Area (AfCFTA), Africa Trade House, Accra Ghana.
Economic development is interconnected with the progress and advancement of other sectors. The letter by AfLIA and IFLA delineates ten crucial areas in which AfCFTA can act decisively to ensure that the Free Trade Area encourages business growth and prosperity in Africa through encouraging learning, research and cultural development. The discussion is ongoing as AfLIA and IFLA continue to engage with AfCFTA and governments of African countries to make sure that access to information is factored into growing businesses and investments in the continent.