Friday, July 09, 2021 / 6.30PM / Proshare Research/Header Image Credit: AfCFTA
The AfCFTA Secretariat on Friday, July 9, held its 2nd quarterly press briefing. At the event, the Secretary-General of AfCFTA who doubled as the host, Mr. Wamkele Mene, addressed journalists across Africa highlighting the major strides recorded by the body since the first press briefing. The Secretary-General disclosed that the secretariat has in the intervening period worked towards the operationalization of the dispute settlement mechanism covering all major trade areas such as trade in goods, investment, and intellectual property.
According to the event's host, participating states are now in the process of nominating representatives, however, mentioned that such representatives would have to be experts in the international economy and conversant with trade laws. This according to him, would expectedly create a more trade-friendly environment and foster intra-African trade.
Speaking further, the Secretary-General mentioned that as of today, 40 nations had ratified the agreement while expressing optimism that Seychelles, DRC, and Burundi would submit their ratification by September. Meanwhile, efforts are being made also to enlist Tanzania which is regarded as a strategic nation, given that it is a large east African country.
He further noted that Benin, Liberia, and Guinea-Bissau have not ratified the agreement but that the secretariat was inter-facing with them and creating an avenue through which their reservations can be addressed.
According to the Secretary-General, the council of Ministers had convened on Thursday, July 08, 2021, to discuss issues around the rules of origin and market access, and as of today 80% of the negotiation has been completed, the Secretary stated that the target is 90%.
The Secretary-General also disclosed that the secretariat has recorded some progress concerning the Pan African Payment & Settlement System(PAPSS). The Secretary-General noted that payment transaction cost currently amounts to about $5b each year and the PAPSS backed by Afrexim Bank would reduce the foreign currency requirement in African payments. Local banks would be able to switch to the platform at the end of the year.
Subsequently, the Secretary fielded questions from journalists, in this process he clarified that the rules of origin would be based on tariff lines and not on value-addition. On how a single West African Currency would affect the AfCFTA, the secretary noted that although it is hoped that Africa would sometime in the future become a single currency union, the proposed West African currency ECO can only have a similar effect on the AfCFTA as other payment platforms, which ease and facilitate trade.
Concerning the need for sensitization, the Secretary mentioned that the body has been engaging with the private sector in different parts of the continent to encourage them to spare head the sensitization program since they stand to benefit the most from the agreement.
After resuming from a brief recess, the secretary made mention of the need to engage partners for such peculiar issues as customs procedure, clearance of goods, and transportation all of which the secretariat cannot achieve alone, hence the need to collaborate with the Union of African Shippers Council (UASC) whose members are conversant with the challenges to trade. The collaboration he noted, was to be formalised through an MOU between the two organisations. According to the secretary, the MOU was an expression of partnership and an action plan with which the two bodies would work to achieve greater intra-African trade in the years to come.