The Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) together with the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) have rolled out a sensitization campaign on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. They Two organizations convened a sensitization meeting at the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, to sensitize customs agents and freight forwarders in Kenya on the AfCFTA agreement.
The meeting which was sponsored by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Kenya brought together the Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders affiliated to KIFWA and was graced by representatives from the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Trade and Industrialization of Kenya.
Speaking during the meeting, Mr. Mannaseh Oiro, Policy Advisor, GIZ said the sensitization meeting was part of the preliminary work necessary before the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement begins.”
In his opening remarks, Mr. Elias Baluku, the Ag Executive Director of FEAFFA underscored the need for the governments and the other stakeholders to support the capacity building of the logistics industry players to effectively apply the new trade tools and instruments brought about by the AfCFTA.
Mr. George Ocholla, the national vice chairman of KIFWA, on the other hand, challenged Customs Agents and Freight Forwarders in Kenya to expand their horizons beyond Kenya and the region and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the continental agreement.
The government of Kenya through the State Department of Trade and Enterprise Development provided an in-depth update on the status of negotiations. Mr. George Dida, the assistant director said, that the initial plan was to conclude phases 1 and 2 of the negotiations by the end of September 2022. He added that negotiations were still ongoing to resolve sticking issues such as the rules of origin for textiles and motor vehicles.
Ms. Grace Wamwea, while representing the commissioner of customs and border controls informed the meeting on the new developments under the regional CETs. She said that a new document on the new CETs will be effective in July 2022.
Some of the issues raised by the participants of the sensitization meeting were the extent to which the private sector has so far been involved during the negotiations. A few stakeholders in the logistics sector are of the view that more needs to be done to ensure all concerns are addressed before the implementation of the trade agreement. The need to have mechanisms for fair competition among different players was also mentioned. Some stakeholders sought clarification on what the government has done to ensure quality assurance of goods and services offered under AfCFTA has been addressed.
Learning to trade under AfCFTA which is yet to be fully implemented is also proving to be a challenge to freight forwarders. Furthermore, given that agreements under AfCFTA will not form a Common External Tariff (CET) means a lot that require to be done in educating industry players.
Various industry players were encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities that AfCFTA offers.
KIFWA members recommended having more awareness creation meetings with customs agents and freight forwarders on the AfCFTA and NTFA agreement with a focus on getting prepared for trade under AfCFTA, sensitization on AfCFTA trade procedures e.g., the interim tariff schedules, rules of origin, and customs procedures, participation of the industry in the negotiations on customs procedures and other aspects that directly affect the freight logistics industry.
The industry challenged the government to share details on the negotiations in transport and logistics as one of the key services so that they can start preparing to take advantage of opportunities created as well as strategies on how to deal with the challenges that will come with a free trade area.
Moving forward, FEAFA also intends to scale up the sensitization activities in the region and enhance the preparedness of the logistics sector for the opportunities available under AfCFTA.
A similar event will be organized in Mombasa which will be followed by a series of subject-specific training for CFAs in Kenya. Some of them are expected to be virtually to be able to reach the entire industry as well as benefit FEAFFA members outside Kenya.