East African countries agree to strenghten regional integration through the continental free trade area
Representatives of 14 countries in East Africa have agreed that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) represents a unique opportunity to promote regional integration.
At the closing session of the three day regional meeting held this week in Kigali, Rwanda, economic experts and decision makers stressed that the implementation of the AfCFTA will create opportunities to consolidate domestic markets, strengthen regional value chains and enhance export competitiveness.
However, successful implementation of the agreement requires effective participation of the private sector, insisted the participants, as well as the full inclusion of women and young people. Non-tariff barriers and supply side constraints are among the constraints that also need to be addressed to allow for its implementation.
“Political will is crucial,” said Uzziel Ndagijimana, Rwanda Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, “but we need to include the private sector”. He added that the AfCFTA must benefit all, including smaller economies, and the experience of the regional integration can help make the AfCFTA a success.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Andrew Mold, Acting Director of the ECA in East Africa congratulated the representatives from the 14 countries served by the subregional office. “The meeting has contributed towards reaching a consensus on the way forward towards the implementation of the AfCFTA.”
The final communique of the 22nd meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts was adopted unanimously. Acknowledging the negative impact of current account deficits on growth, it urges member states to mobilise savings and translate them into productive investment, promote exports and tap into domestic markets opportunities.
It also recommends increasing competition in services sectors such as logistics and transport to boost manufacturing.
On the theme of energy, the communique insists on the necessary upscaling of alternative cooking sources to reduce biomass reliance, while expanding sustainable forest management and plantations to meet the demand and supply imbalance.
Tourism experts insisted on the role of trade in services for the success of the AfCFTA. They underscored the need to find innovating financing resources to stimulate investment in the sector.
49 African countries have signed the agreement establishing the continental free trade area, but only 12 countries so far have ratified it. Twenty-two (22) ratifications are needed by March 2019 to enable it enter into force. The UN Economic Commission for Africa is working to support African members states in the implementation process of the AfCFTA.