Trade Policy at Work

Towards More Inclusive Trade Policy Making: Process and Role of Stakeholders in Select African Countries

This research looks into trade policy making processes in five Eastern and Southern African countries. A number of governmental initiatives have opened up these processes to a larger group of stakeholders who are now eager to play an active role in trade policy making. This publication discusses the remaining constraints to their effective participation and ways to improve consultative mechanisms.

The outcome of the research during the first phase of the Fostering Equity and Accountability in the Trading System (FEATS) Project is presented in this volume. This research adopted a tested methodology used regularly by CUTS of active involvement of national stakeholders through the respective FEATS National Reference Groups (NRGs) in the project countries: Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. This project has an added value here; Geneva based Missions of the project countries (and the Brussels Mission of Malawi) have been involved.

Research focus is on trade policy making processes and role of main stakeholders. Research shows that a number of initiatives have been undertaken by the governments in the project countries to open up the trade policy making process to a larger group of stakeholders including relevant government ministries and agencies, private sector, NGOs, and research institutions. The primary means for this are the formal consultative mechanisms. Research also indicates that the stakeholders are aware of these efforts and eager to play an active role in trade policy making.

However, their improved and effective participation in trade policy making requires strengthened capacity of all stakeholders, improved and more consistently used consultative mechanisms (i.e. inclusion of all relevant stakeholders, rationalization of number and functions, regularity of meetings, and clarity of mandate), and promotion of a culture of dialogue among all stakeholders.

While the situation varies among countries and among different groups of stakeholders, the research affirms that much needs to be done. Hence, the effort must be sustained.