More work needed to effectively implement African free trade area: experts

KIGALI, May 21,
(Xinhua/GNA) – Issues like negotiations on key instruments and more
ratification numbers have to be achieved for effective implementation of the
African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, Rwandan experts told
Xinhua recently, as the African Union (AU) Commission set a time frame to
activate the AfCFTA agreement on May 30.

According to
the AU, the remaining work for the AfCFTA is for the AU and African ministers
of trade to finalize work on supporting instruments to facilitate the launch of
the operational phase of the AfCFTA during an extra-ordinary heads of state and
government summit on July 7.

These
instruments include rules of origin, schedules of tariff concessions on trade
in goods, online non-tariff barriers monitoring and elimination mechanism,
digital payments and settlement platform and African Trade Observatory Portal.

Permanent
Secretary of Rwanda’s Ministry of Trade and Industry Michel Minega Sebera said
the implementation can’t be effective before negotiations on some key implementing
instruments, including rules of origin and tariff concessions are completed.

Despite the
fact that the required 22 ratifications for the AfCFTA agreement to enter into
force have been reached, the rest of African countries should join for its
effective implementation, said Sebera, who is also an expert in international
trade and development industry.

Nigeria,
Africa’s largest economy, has so far opted not to ratify the agreement. Over 50
percent of the continent’s cumulative GDP are contributed by Egypt, Nigeria and
South Africa, while Africa’s six sovereign island nations collectively
contribute just 1 percent, according to reports.

African
countries are at different levels of development and may also have different
understanding of the AfCFTA objectives, Sebera said.

He also said
awareness and sensitization of stakeholders should be a continuous activity
before and during the implementation process.

The private
sector and business community have to play a key role in the implementation
process, whose proper understanding and contribution are very important to the
implementation, the official said.

Strong
governments are necessary to ensure the implementation, said Enock Twinoburyo,
Senior Economist at the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa based
in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda, noting that political challenges or
political pressures in different countries lately will affect the
implementation.

Poor
infrastructure, non-tariff barriers to protect local industries and funding
constraints for transition of the AfCFTA could also affect the implementation
of the AfCFTA, said Twinoburyo.

The AfCFTA is
regarded as the world’s largest free trade zone by the number of countries,
covering more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product
(GDP) of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.

Once
operational, the African free trade accord is also projected to boost the level
of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2020, according to
the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The AfCTA will
most likely attract a large amount foreign direct investment, and the trade of
Africa with the rest of the world is expected to go up, said Herman Musahara,
associate professor and researcher at the College of Business and Economics of
University of Rwanda.

Efficiency in
allocation and resource use in Africa may lower input costs and make goods
produced in Africa cost-effective and competitive, thus, stimulating more
exports to the rest of the world, he said.

GNA

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