By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI
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Ethiopia last week ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), leaving only one more ratification for it to take effect.
Twenty-two ratifications are required for the agreement to enter into force and so far 21 countries have ratified their instruments.
Since the March 2018 AU Summit in Kigali when the continental pact was launched and signed by 44 states, eight more — South Africa, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Burundi, Namibia, Guinea Bissau, Botswana and Zambia — have signed. Only Eritrea, Benin, Nigeria and Tanzania remain.
To date, 15 countries — Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Chad, Congo Republic, Djibouti, Guinea, eSwatini, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire — have deposited their instruments of AfCFTA ratification with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo, Egypt and Zimbabwe have received parliamentary approvals for ratification.
According to Stephen Karingi, director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the remaining items for discussion on the AfCFTA are competition, provisions for investment, intellectual property and e-commerce. So far the protocols on goods, services and dispute settlement have been completed and their annexes will be ready by July.
“The second phase of negotiations on the remaining clauses will begin soon,” We expect that the discussions will be concluded early 2021,” said Dr Karingi.