Africa integrated market to kick off from January—AU

Trade Commissioner of African Union (AU) Mr. Albert Muchanga, has said the continent was set to initiate integrated market starting from January. No fewer than 50 African countries have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). They signed the agreement during the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government which was held on March 2018, in Kigali Rwanda. A year after the signing, the African Union is becoming fervent that signatories with the remaining 10 African countries to ratify the agreement, he pointed out.

Only 12 of the 22 countries have so far ratified the agreement, Commissioner Muchanga told ENA, and hastened to say “but we are confident that we should be able to reach the 22. So, we are confident that by February 2019 we are going to have the 22 ratifications and now we are also undertaking preparatory activities,” he pointed out. Negotiations in schedules of tariff concessions and trade in goods, schedules of specific commitment in trade and establishment of the digit payment proceedings are still taking place, he added.

“When the agreement comes into force one month later, we will be able to start trading under the new regime, so that is very good progress and we are encouraged,” Muchanga said. Africa is trying to create an integrated market, he said, and noted “we need each and every African Union member state to sign and ratify the agreement so that we have an integrated market.” The integrated market will attract large investment from the rest of the world, create employment opportunities, and minimize migration, he elaborated. Asked about its significance to economic transformation, Commissioner Muchanga said colonisation had fragmented African economy and stressed:

“And with small market it was very difficult to industrialise, now we are creating a larger market space and with that now we are really to bring in large economy, which is more viable to industrialise,” he noted. To ensure intra-Africa trade, he emphasized that countries need to start harmonizing policies and regulations in line with the agreement. “When we develop the internal market, I think the message that comes out clear is that Africa is better forward instead of remaining with small and fragmented markets,” he pointed out. According to studies some countries may lose revenues in the short-term as a result of liberalisation, however, all countries will benefit in the long-term, he articulated. He urged the AU member states to spearhead the negotiations instead of the commission.

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