The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) protocol has been given a head-start of becoming the engine of trade, growth and development for the continent as The Gambia completes the pact for ratifying the agreement and positioning it for implementation.
Mr Lamin Jobe, Gambia’s Minister of Trade on Monday moved a motion in the national assembly to ratify the AfCFTA agreement completing the threshold of 22 countries, a requirement for the instrument to come into force.
According to the protocol, 30 days after the required number of ratifications have been deposited with the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson; the AfCFTA agreement will enter into force.
Ambassador Albert Muchanga, Commissioner for Trade and Industry, AUC said “This is good news! The Parliament of The Gambia has approved the ratification agreement making us meet the minimum threshold.”
“The AfCFTA market is being born and is one step ready for the launch of its operational phase in July, this year.”
The AfCFTA’s work on rules of origin, tariff concessions, payments, non-tariff barriers and trade information are the other steps and are also progressing very well for the launch, he added.
Mr Tei Konzi, Commissioner, Trade and Free Movement at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in a response on Tuesday said creating a trade borderless regime for the continent has gained positive reality entreating those countries still contemplating to do the needful.
He said expectations are that trade among African states will increase to 52 percent, valued at about US$ 35 Billion by 2022, when the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement comes to reality.
Mr Bakary Dosso, Ag. Director, ECA Sub-Regional Office-West Africa said “The AfCFTA agreement is a commendable milestone for this flagship project of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union. We are indeed proud that The Gambia, a West African country makes this happen.”
He said the AfCFTA agreement aims to boost intra-African trade by making Africa a single market of 1.2 billion people and a cumulative GDP of over $3.4 trillion.
He said “Trade among member states was the way to go,” adding that 91% of Africa’s export trade with the global world was only six percent of trade volumes and looking inward was positive.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that the implementation of the agreement could increase intra-African trade by 52% by 2022 (Compared with trade levels in 2010) and double the share of intra-African trade currently around 13% of Africa’s by the start of next decade.
African leaders held an Extraordinary Summit on the AfCFTA from March 17-21, 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda, during which the Agreement establishing the protocol was presented for signature, along with the Kigali Declaration and Protocol on Free Movement of persons, Right to Residence and Right to Establishment.
In total, 44 out of the 55 AU member states signed the consolidated text of the AfCFTA Agreement, 47 signed the Kigali Declaration and 30 signed the Protocol on movement on Free Movement.
Since the summit, eight countries have signed the AfCFTA agreement-South Africa, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Burundi, Namibia, Guinea Bissau, Botswana, and Zambia-bringing the total number of signatories to 52.
Benin, Eritrea and Nigeria are the only AU countries that have not yet sign the AfCFTA Agreement.
Perhaps the reluctance of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to sign and ratify the Agreement is borne out of fears from the manufacturers in that country through its National Association of Nigeria Traders that the AfCFTA would create a phenomenon of dumping of goods produced outside of Africa into Nigeria’s market through smaller member countries, among others.
But Professor Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank in a lecture this week, “Leveraging the AfCFTA to Boost Nigeria’s Economy and Development,” allay the fears of the manufacturers that there were protocols in the Agreement including that of stringent rule of origin to deal with their concerns, more so, when there were dispute settlement mechanisms embedded that would allow for grievance resolution in such matters.
He encouraged the manufacturers to retool and be ready to participate in the African and global market.
Twenty-two ratifications are required for the Agreement to enter into force. The threshold was reached on April 2, 2019 with parliamentary approval obtained from the Gambia.
With this development, the status of ratification is as follows: 15 countries have deposited their instruments of AfCFTA ratification with the AUC including Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Chad, Congo Republic, Djibouti, Guinea, eSwatini (Former Swaziland), Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Cote D’Ivoire-and seven countries have received parliamentary approval for ratification-Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and The Gambia.