THE African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is targeting to secure 22 ratifications by end of this year to pave way for a single continental market with a billion consumers, a Zambian minister has said.
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA
AfCFTA was launched early this year in Rwanda with the mandate to open the markets on goods and services. Once all documents are concluded and ratified by 22 states, the free trade area will formally exist.
Speaking at the third Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Diplomatic Conference on Competition and Trade, Zambia’s Commerce, Trade and Industry minister Christopher Yaluma said it “will not be long to witness the entry into force of this historic Agreement, once 22 ratifications are secured”.
To date, 44 out of the 55 African countries have signed the framework agreement establishing the AfCFTA and three ratifications have been secured.
“…it will not be long to witness the entry into force of this historic agreement, once 22 ratifications are secured.
“We are all aware the AFCFTA will not just be about opening markets for trade in goods and services, but will also hinge on matters that affect competition, investment and intellectual property rights,” Yaluma said.
He said there was need to take a holistic approach in the discussions and highlight areas where focused interventions were required by both the private sector and policy-makers in implement the AfCFTA and competition policy.
Apart from AfCFTA, the African continent has long established other regional bodies with a similar mandate of promoting trade and development in the region. Some of these regional bodies were Comesa, Sadc and the East African Community.
According to official statistics, Comesa boasts of being one of Africa’s regional economic communities that spans from the north to the south in terms of membership with a combined population of approximately 520 million people and Gross Domestic Product valued at about $755 billion.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, director of Trade at the African Union Commission Treasure Thembisile Maphanga said African Union was working on a roadmap to finish the first phase of negotiations for the AfCFTA which have to do with the agreement that governs how Africa will trade on goods and services across the continent.
“Fortunately, the progress is very encouraging and good as far as the negotiations are concerned. Negotiations though will not end this year, they will continue because we have to still work on issues related to investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy,” Maphanga said.
Maphanga said institutions will be working independently from the commission under the leadership of the member states which have signed the agreement of the state parties.
Commenting on Zimbabwe, she said the country has been committed in participating on the ratification, but was among the six which have requested for a special dispensation due to the current economic situation in the country.