The AU Senior Trade Officials meet on Continental Free Trade Area

The African Union (AU) Senior Trade Officials meeting have started in Rwanda to consider the concluded legal instruments to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

January 2018, the Assembly of African Union Heads of state and government unanimously decided to hold an Extra-ordinary Summit on 21st March to sign agreement and protocols establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area and thereafter Launch it.

Commissioner of Trade and Industry, Albert M. Muchanga,”We meet in Rwanda today to prepare for the Extra-Ordinary Summit and also continue the historic journey of Africa creating her future,” said.

In January this year the AU summit approved the protocol establishing a free movement of people, free movements of goods, and we are very close to coming up with African passport. African countries launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative by the African Union (AU), which means RwandAir can fly to any part of continent without any problems and other Airline can do the same. We are making a very competitive market. This is why we are here. We are drawing the map of Africa to make it a one single market.

The negotiations for a Continental Free Trade Agreement were launched in June 2015, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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.

The African Continental Free Trade Area meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, at Serena Hotel The African Continental Free Trade Area meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, at Serena Hotel

The AfCFTA is being pursued under the development integration approach that combines market integration with industrial and infrastructure development to address Africa’s productive capacity and supply-side constraints; promote the diversification of Africa’s export base from dependence on raw materials to value-added products; as well as alleviate the chronic infrastructure deficit in Africa.

Most importantly, the AfCFTA is expected to facilitate the movement of goods and services among African countries. It will also result in the harmonization of customs documentation and processes, thus enhancing trade facilitation.

The AfCFTA will also establish an effective and functional dispute settlement mechanism to deal with trade disputes arising from the commitments countries will undertake.

The AfCFTA is not a stand-alone initiative. It is aligned with the goals of other AU programs crucial for the development and interconnection of the continent. These programs include the Agenda 2063, Program for the Infrastructural Development of Africa (PIDA), the Action Plan for the Accelerated Industrial Development Africa (AIDA), Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT), and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), among others. Essentially, the AfCFTA does not replicate, replace or reinvent the existing continental programs but should complement them.

Nkusi Leo

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