Kenya has called for the speedy conclusion of outstanding matters in the AfCFTA negotiations to allow the private sector take advantage of the existing opportunities.
Director of International Trade Oliver Konje said effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area would help Kenya transform economy into a competitive export-led economy and a thriving domestic market.
Konje also said the move would also increase the size and scope of the manufacturing sector.
He spoke on behalf of Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina on Tuesday at private sector sensitization workshop on the National AfCFTA Implementation Strategy in Nairobi.
The workshop was organized by the Ministry of Trade in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Africa and financially supported by the European Union Delegation to the AU.
The Ministry of Trade said the event is aimed at enabling stakeholders understand and appreciate benefits of the AfCFTA strategy and illustrate opportunities available.
Mama Keita, UNECA sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa director, said the strategy couldn’t have come at a better time given global uncertainties brought about by Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war.
“Africa needs to look inwards for solutions where the private sector plays a critical role,” she said in her opening remarks.
AfCFTA is trade pact that seeks to form the world’s largest free trade area by connecting almost 1.3 billion people across the 54 African states.
The agreement aims to create a single market for goods and services to deepen the economic integration of Africa. As a result, the trade area could have a combined gross domestic product of around $3.4 trillion.
But more than one year and a half since the official start of trading under the AfCFTA agreement, some issues remain pending.
Experts say three elements are eroding consensus. These the never-ending discussion on the rules of origin, which is the intersection between trade and possible industrial policy; the interference of external partners pushing their agenda of divide and rule (with Kenya’s free trade deal with the US for example) and a lack of capacity in the Secretariat to push the agenda, given its launch in the middle of Covid-19.
The negotiations are divided into three phases.
Phase one involved negotiations on trade in goods and services, which led to the ratification of the AfCFTA agreement and protocols on trade in service and goods and settlement of disputes that came into force on May 30, 2019. This okayed the launch of trading but it was not conclusive.
The second phase involved intellectual property rights, investment and competition policy, some of which have already started, while the third part was talks on e-commerce, which are due to begin when the second phase concludes.