n experts’ meeting to review Kenya’s implementation strategy for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) started is going on in Mombasa to discuss a range of sectors that could help the country benefit from the agreement.
The four days meeting that started yesterday is organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the Kenya State Department for Trade & Enterprise Development and TradeMark East Africa. Trade experts, including government officials, trade economists, academia, development partners and youth and women’s representatives are taking part in the meeting.
Speaking on behalf of ECA in Eastern Africa, Mr Geoffrey Manyara noted that liberalization of trade under AfCFTA will harbour significant benefits for Kenya and East Africa at large.
“Everyone will gain, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)” he said.
Bruno Linyiru Kenya’s Secretary of Trade said that it is important to transform the AfCFTA National strategy into an implementable document and a blueprint of concrete actions which Kenyans will understand and take actions to benefit.
Ms Gladys Kinyuah, the Deputy Director for International Trade at the Kenya Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development said the Government is already focused on implementing the agreement by taking into consideration the recommendations by the private sector.
According to TMEA, the AfCFTA holds great potential for Kenya, which already exports 40 percent of its total exports within the continent.
“For the full benefit of the trade deal to be realized, it is essential for Kenya to prioritizes key and high potential sectors and markets and back this with well-thought-out action plans and strategic interventions” noted Frank Matsaert, TMEA CEO.
A previous study by TMEA and ECA forecasts the trade treaty will lead to significant diversification of East African economies, a US$1.1 billion boost in inter-regional trade, creating over 2 million jobs.
This Technical Review Meeting is one of the key actions part of the European Union-funded project. The EU supports ECA in its efforts to advocate for the AfCFTA ratification and to develop and operationalize national strategies for effective implementation and monitoring of the agreement.
To date, 54 Member States have signed the AfCFTA and 36 have ratified it. The principal objectives of the agreement are to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of persons and investments, and lay the foundations for the establishment of a Continental Customs Union.
The new market, which became operational on 1st January this year, is estimated to be as large as 1.3 billion people across Africa, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion. This has a potential of lifting 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty, according to the World Bank.
It is also expected to boost intra-African trade, promote industrialization, create jobs, and improve competitiveness of African industries on the global stage.
However, for a smooth rollout, countries have to agree on some remaining issues such as the Rules of Origin, which are a key element in international trade as they are the cornerstone of preferential trade arrangements such as AfCFTA.
As of today, Africa can trade on over 81 percent of products on preferential terms. These goods form part of the initial trading, while negotiations on the remaining 20 percent are ongoing and are expected to be concluded by July 2021, according to Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat.
It was in 2012 that AU member States formally agreed to usher in a continental free trade zone and gave themselves 5 years to achieve the goal. But it was only in February 2016, within a year of the initial deadline, that negotiations started.
Two years later, in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, the treaty was signed by 44 countries.