Mr. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), says the continental trade regime will take off as planned on January 1, 2021.
He said the AfCFTA Secretariat is targetting January 2021 for commencing implementation of the free trade agreement, following its postponement due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Mr. Mene said this when he and his team from the AfCFTA Secretariat met the media ahead of an engagement with the diplomatic community from African member-states based m Accra.
He said within 15 years of implementing the agreement, 90 percent of African’s internal trade ought not to pay duty.
He said within that period, unnecessary barriers to trade and non-tariff barriers must be removed.
“We are looking to the agreement mechanisms for removal of non-tariff barriers to trade on the African continent,” he said.
He expressed gratitude to the government and people of Ghana for providing world-class resources to enable the Secretariat advance the objective of an integrated market in Africa.
He said it is an indication of Ghana’s continuous commitment to Pan-Africanism and continuous commitment in taking leadership roles to advance the noble objective of unity and an integrated market in Africa.
He said COVID-19 has been a delaying factor to commencement of trading, because out of 55 countries 42 are either in a full or partial lockdown, barriers are closed, and goods are not transiting.
The Secretary-General said the AfCFTA is a timely and critical intervention in addressing the COVlD-l9 pandemic and achieving the socio-economic transformation of Africa under Agenda 2063 through trade and industrialisation.
He informed that they had responded to COVID-19 and provided advice and proposals to Heads of State and Ministers of Trade for the establishment of trade corridors during the pandemic period.
He said they had also asked countries to allow goods required for fighting the pandemic to transit through barriers without any duty.
Mr. Mene explained that as a Secretariat, they have learnt from the pandemic that Africa ought to accelerate its industrial development and reconfigure its supply chain to be less reliant on others – “without disconnecting ourselves from the global economy”.
“We will have to work with the various countries to put in place the requisite tariff infrastructure and Customs’ administration infrastructure for the new agreement,” he said.
He said, as a continent, there is a need to start building some degree of self-sufficiency in terms of industrial development.
The Secretary-General informed that as implementation of the agreement commences, “We need to relook at the continent’s intellectual property rights regime, and make an assessment as to what extent which regime will facilitate African industrial development”.
He said they are committed to implementing the agreement, and the political commitment remains to ensure that Africa implements the agreement in its totality.
He explained the Heads of State have been given directives and will be meeting on December 15, 2020 in South Africa for a special summit of the AfCFTA to provide further directives regarding implementation of the agreement from January, 1, 2021.
“We have a daunting task of accelerating industrial development in Africa and positioning Africa in the Agreement to be a destination for investment establishment and value chains across the continent.
“We have a challenge to make sure that we adhere to rules of the agreement, implement rules of the agreement, and implement trade facilitation, transit, Customs cooperation components of the agreement that will facilitate and boost intra-African trade.
“There will be challenges and setback, but we are committed to making sure that during our tenure of office we will build an integrated market in Africa that contributes to African economic development,” he said.
Credit : GNA