Ministers responsible for Trade in 16 African countries are meeting in Accra to conclude outstanding issues to pave way for the full commencement of commercial trading under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The two-day meeting will feature the presentation of the AfCFTA facilitated and guided trade initiative and the way forward.
It is a follow-up on the Ministerial Directive of the seventh Meeting of the AfCFTA Council of Ministers in October 2021 that provided a legal basis for the countries that had submitted their tariff schedules in accordance with the agreed modalities to trade preferentially among themselves.
The Champion of AfCFTA, Mahamadou Issoufou, addressing the trade ministers and other representatives at the opening of the meeting yesterday, called for a rapid ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement for a smooth commencement of commercial trading.
He recommended that the ministers accelerated the implementation of the AfCFTA by forming implementation committees at the national level.
The ministers, he said, were also to assist the AfCFTA Secretariat to ensure the successful hosting of a Summit on Industrialisation and the Extraordinary Session of the AfCFTA.
The Summit on Africa’s Industrialisation and Economic Diversity with the focus of implementing AfCFTA and the Extraordinary Session of the Assembly was scheduled to be held in Niamey, Niger, from November 20-25, 2022 during the Africa Industrialisation week.
As a step towards a meaningful trade under the agreement, Mr Issoufou said the guided traded initiative had also been launched, describing it as “another milestone.”
“Today marks a time of yet another additional milestone to be recorded in the history of Africa’s economic integration.
“As a step towards commencing commercially meaningful trade under the AfCFTA, the Secretariat has set this day to launch the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative.
“The objective of the initiative is to provide a proof of concept, highlighting the readiness of an interested group of State Parties to start trading under the preferences of the AfCFTA Agreement,” he explained.
Mr Issoufou noted that there had been a steady development regarding the ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement with 54 signatories.
Also, 44 ratifications had been recorded with Guinea-Bissau being the latest country to deposit its instrument of ratification.
He was certain more ratifications would be reported before the end of the year, and called on heads of States, ministers and partners to help increase the number of ratification to achieve the formation of the single African market.
The AfCFTA Champion mentioned that the AfCFTA Secretary General had taken steps to implement some recommendations by signing a memorandum of understanding with Equity Group to deepen the economic integration of the African continent.
The partnership, Mr Issoufou indicated, would seek to implement the AfCFTA Agreement and the AfCFTA Private Sector Strategy through the `Africa Recovery and Resilience Plan’, which would focus on acceleration of economic recovery and resilience in Africa in a post-COVID-19 environment.
He further explained that two institutions were to work on the private sector economic recovery and resilience stimulus plan, which Equity Group had seeded with a $6billion fund, focusing on the primary sectors of food and agriculture, extractives, manufacturing and logistics, trade and investments, social impact, health and environmental investments, as well as a technology enabled economy to accelerate economic recovery and resilience of the African continent.
“The partnership will, among others, support the creation of 50 million jobs by 2025 and five million small medium enterprises (SMEs) will receive loans to scale and grow, utilising tools of the AfCFTA Agreement and create additional private sector lending with an envisaged loan book to be directed to agriculture (30 per cent), manufacturing (15 per cent) and MSMEs (65 per cent),” he said.