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 was targeting January 2021 for the commencement of the implementation of the free trade agreement following its postponement due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Mene said this when he and his team from the AfCFTA Secretariat met the media ahead of engagement with the diplomatic community from the Africa Member States based in Accra.
He said within 15 years of the implementation of the agreement, 90 percent of African’s 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 the 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 well-class resources to enable the Secretariat to advance the objective of an integrated market in Africa.
He said it was an indication of Ghana’s continuous commitment to Pan Africanism and continuous commitment to taking leadership roles to advance the noble objectives of unity and an integrated market in Africa.
He said COVID-19 had been a delaying factor in the commencement of trading, because out of 55 countries, 42 were either in full or partial lockdown, barriers were closed and goods were not transiting.
The Secretary-General said the AfCFTA was a timely and critical intervention in addressing the COVlD-l9 pandemic and achieving the social-economic transformation of Africa under Agenda 2063 through trade and industrialization.
He informed that they had responded to COVID-19 and had provided advice and proposals to Heads of States and Ministers of Trade for the establishment of trade corridors during the period of the pandemic.
He said they had also asked countries to allow goods required for the fighting of the pandemic to transit through barriers without any duty.
Mr. Mene explained that as a Secretariat, they had learned from the pandemic that Africa ought to accelerate its industrial development and reconfigure its supply chain to be less reliance 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 was the need to start building a degree of self-sufficient in terms of industrial development.
The Secretary-General informed that as the implementation of the agreement commences, “we need to relook at the continent’s intellectual property rights regime and make an assessment to what extent to which regime will facilitate African industrial development.”
He said they were committed to the implementation of the agreement and the political commitment remained to ensure that Africa implemented the agreement in its totality.
He explained the Heads of States had been given directives and would be meeting on December 15, 2020, in South Africa in a special summit of the AfCFTA to provide further directives as to the implementation of the agreement from January 1, 2021.
He said Angola has deposited its instrument of ratification, with Nigeria also in the process of ratifying the agreement and expected by the next ordinary session of the Assembly of Head of State to deposit its instrument of ratification.
“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 the rules of the agreement, implement the rules of the agreement and implement trade facilitation, transit, customs cooperation component of the agreement that would facilitate and boost intra-African trade.
“There will be challenges and setbacks, but we are committed to making sure that during our tenure of office, we will build an integrated market in Africa that would contribute to African economic development,” he said.