The Secretary-General of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Wamkele Mene stated that “the establishment of the AfCFTA does not only promote continental trade and economic integration in Africa but also support economic integration and trade facilitation between Africa and the rest of the world as the objective of the agreement is to increase both intra-African trade and trade with the rest of the world in made-in Africa goods and services.”
Speaking at a fireside chat on the theme: “Building the Momentum towards AfCFTA implementation; Overcoming Challenges” with the Secretary General of CUTS International, Pradeep Mehta, in Accra to mark the 40th Anniversary of CUTS International, Wamkele Mene said “AfCFTA is a momentous agreement for the African continent and a tremendous milestone in the decades-long effort of the African Union to integrate the economies of member states and boost both intra-Africa trade and trade with the rest of world. The full implementation of the agreement is expected to boost significantly trade, accelerate the continent’s economic growth, spur diversification and generation of jobs for the rapidly growing youth population of Africa.”
Wamkele Mene explained that Africa now has a single set of rules for trade in more than 90% of tradable products demonstrating the continent’s commitment and readiness to shape its own economic destiny. “The AfCFTA presents an unparalleled opportunity to restructure Africa’s economies away from the economic models based on the export of natural resources to countries in Europe, Asia and North America and import manufactured goods.”
Touching on AfCFTA implementation, he pointed out that the Secretariate has rolled out key projects and tools including AfCFTA Rules of Origin (RoO) Manual, AfCFTA e-tariff book and the Guided Trade Initiative (GTI).
Wamkele Mene added, “We have deployed the AfCFTA e-tariff Book to ensure that tariff concession schedules are easily accessible to Trade and Customs Authorities. The Guided Trade Initiative which was launched in October last year has proven to be successful and trading is finally taking place among an initial eight State Parties on a pilot basis, to benefit private sector business and consumers.”
He emphasized the important roles that partnerships and improved collaboration among Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and member states working together play in contributing to the successful implementation of the AfCFTA and boosting intra-Africa trade.
While admitting global economic challenges including geopolitical tensions, inflationary pressures, supply chain disruptions, anti-globalisation sentiments, covid, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict has affected the trading system globally, there is the need to accelerate implementation of the AfCFTA to help African economies to build resilience and become competitive regionally and globally.
He also applauded CUTS International for its role in providing evidence-based research and relentless advocacy to inform public policy for inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa and across the world over the past four decades.
“I extended my warm congratulations and best wishes to CUTS International on achieving this important milestone. Indeed, 40 years in the life of an independent non-profit economic policy research, advocacy and capacity building think tank in any part of the world is no mean achievement.” Wamkele Mene remarked.
On his path, Pradeep Mehta pointed out that the AfCFTA has the potential to change the fortunes of the African continent and called on the AfCFTA Secretariat to accelerate its smooth implementation. He also spoke about the G20/B20’s Council for Africa’s Economic Integration’s work and how it can help AfCFTA create a common market in Africa.
In conclusion, Pradeep Mehta thanked Wamkele Mene and all the distinguished participants at the event, and stressed on the need for an MOU with the AfCFTA secretariat to assist it in achieving its goals smoothly. “There are situations in the trade policy field when a non-partisan non-government organization is able to provide evidence to advance the community’s interest when parts of it may not be acceptable to some parties.”
CUTS International works in countries across the world with offices in Geneva, Jaipur, New Delhi, Hanoi, Calcutta, Nairobi, Lusaka, Accra and Washington D.C. It conducts research, advocacy and capacity building in the following areas: AfCFTA Consumer Protection, Education & Awareness, Competition Law and Policy, Trade and Sustainable Development, Investment, Economic Regulations and Fiscal Policies, Healthcare Policy, Education Policy and Economics.