Senior trade officials from African Union (AU) have been in Rwanda to discuss how to establish the African Continental free trade Union (AFCFTA) that is expected to ease trade through a common market.
The initiative came in December 2017, in Niamey-Niger through a progress report from the president of Niger, the champion of AFCFTA who suggested a signing ceremony as soon as possible.
In July 2018, the heads of AU states would hold an extra-ordinary summit, but with this decision, the summit will be held on March 21, 2018 in Rwanda to sign the legal instruments establishing the AFCFTA according to Albert M. Muchanga, AU-Commissioner of Trade and Industry.
“What we want is to give heads of states and governments a document that is in order and legally, that is substantive in terms of contents, so, the officials have been working since two weeks starting in Addis-Ababa to finalize this document, so the senior trade officials will see what was done by the negotiation forum and they are going to finalize today,” said Muchanga.
“The ministers of trade, officials dealing with legal issues and the ministers of justice are going to come in. After that, the ministers of justice will hand over everything to the executive council which is the advisory committee of the summit made up of ministries of foreign affairs,” Muchanga noted.
These officials will approve the document before being submitted to the heads of states and governments for signature on March 21, 2018.
Before the mean date, the private sector from Africa and other parts of the world will come to learn the success of what the AU trade ministers have been discussing in results of African Continental Free Trade Area.
The private sector role is to bring in the investment on the continent according to Muchanga.
When you look at partner of investments, only 20 percent of investment flows in Africa are counted by the African private sector, we wanted to increase that, because in Asia is 33 percent, and therefore they are offering a large market. If somebody produces in Rwanda under the Continental free Trade Area, they are able to export to the rest of Africa without charges and they are going to remove all the non-tariff barriers to make it very rapid across Africa,” Muchanga noted.
In January this year, the summit approved the protocol establishing a free movement of people and goods, rights of residence and rights of establishment.
Muchanga said that this will ease movements for Africans as they will be able to move across the continent with passport and without any problem.
The summit also launches the single African Air Transport market for one country’s Airline to fly to any part of Africa without any problem.
“so, we are making a very competitive market and the air travel is going to go down because of a lot of budget airlines are going to come. This is why we are here. We are re-drawing the map of Africa to make it one single market. The physical borders will be there but in terms of trade and Industry, no borders will be there because we will be moving freely across African countries,” Muchanga added.
The negotiations for a Continental Free Trade Agreement were launched in June 2015, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Improving Intra-Africa trade
“Right now, the levels of intra-Africa trade are somewhere around 18 percent, we want to double that by 2023. When you look the patterns of intra Africa trade, 42% is accounted for by manufacturers, we are going to promote what we call regional value chains to industrialize across the continent, a lot of industries are going tom emerge and trade is going to grow,” said Muchanga.
Intra-Africa trade and an integrated market in Africa will see a market of over 1 billion people with a GDP of approximately US$2.6 trillion.
By Elias Hakizimana&Viateur Habumuremyi
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