AFCTA scribe calls for understanding as negotiations on ‘grey areas’ drag implementation

THE Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA) Wamkele Mene has called for understanding among stakeholders in the continent as negotiations on certain ‘grey areas’ drag full implementation of the trade pact.

The AFCTA officially commenced on January 1, 2021 and industry analysts say the pact could grow an estimated $3.4 trillion market.  It is also expected that the trade pact will help to harness more than $84 billion untapped intra-African exports, according to a new report by the African-Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

Speaking during an interview in Abuja, the secretary-general, Mene, disclosed that currently, the continent was at the initial stage of implementation of the trade pact amid concerns over grey areas in the different phases of implementation.

“Overall, we are in the initial stages of implementation. We are also still negotiating outstanding areas of phase one in trade in goods and trade in services. Phase two which we will start in July to August is intellectual property rights, competition policy, women in trade, digital trade. We want to get it right so that our people can enjoy maximum benefits of the trade pact.” he said.

Mene said there was a need to sort out grey areas so as to boost intra-African trade by reducing trade barriers and creating a level-playing ground among various member nations.

“I think Africans should be patient and understand that we are in the initial stages of a significant endeavour and that is bringing together 38 countries to trade under a single set of rules.”

Citing similarities with the European Union, he said, “It has taken the European Union 72 years to get to this point of market integration that it enjoys today, so it is not easy. What we are doing is a difficult task, it is time-consuming; it will require us to be patient and we shall see the results in the years to come.”

He stressed that it was expected that with the trade pact, in 15 years from now, 97 per cent of products traded in Africa should be in zero duty.

“We want the make sure that we boost Intra Africa trade by reducing these barriers to trade,” he added.






     

     

    Industry experts say there is a need to clear out grey areas in the trade pact to lessen possible incidences of dumping of goods from Europe on some member countries.

    “Rules of origin need to be sorted out clearly. We have had instances where some of our neighbours like the Benin Republic are used as strategic dumping sites for some finished goods which have been rebranded as produced locally,” an associate Consultant to the British Department of International Development (DFID) Celestine Okeke told The ICIR.

    Okeke stressed that without proper checks and balances, the liberalisation of trade within the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) trade could be exploited by some African countries to take advantage of the Nigerian market.

    Also speaking on the matter, a former President of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry Adetokunbo Kayode told The ICIR that priority should also be given to the establishment of dispute resolution centres in the African Continental Free Trade Area in order to ensure swift resolution of possible trade disputes.

    Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.

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