REGIONAL TRADE

EAC traders told to ride on AfCFTA's huge market

Kenya's EAC CS Rebecca Miano said this when she opened the 14th African Union High-Level Private Sector Forum in Nairobi

In Summary
  • The trade pact has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty
  • Implementation of AfCFTA will lead to an increase in Africa's income by $450 billion by 2035. 
East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano while presiding over the launch of a consultative forum for the draft of EAC's constitution in Mombasa on May 8, 2023.
East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano while presiding over the launch of a consultative forum for the draft of EAC's constitution in Mombasa on May 8, 2023.
Image: REBECCA MIANO/TWITTER

The private sector has been asked to leverage on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to promote regional trade and increase productivity. 

Speaking when she opened the 14th African Union High-Level Private Sector Forum in Nairobi, East African Community (EAC) Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano said the trade deal is Africa's gateway to self-sustainability. 

She explained that this is only possible if Regional Economic Communities (RECs) harmonise trade policies, address Non-Tariff Barriers, improve infrastructure and ride on technology transfer to improve competitiveness in the global market. 

"The continent is sleeping on a goldmine. Governments are putting in place a framework for continental trade. It is now the chance for the private sector to grab the opportunity and run with it,'' Miano said. 

She said EAC is the most integrated and fastest-growing regional bloc in the continent, noting that more focus must be put on access to credit, developing trade, climate change and women and youth. 

The AfCFTA agreement creates the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating.

It connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at $3.4 trillion.

It has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, but achieving its full potential will depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.

In February last year, EAC partner states adopted the EAC Tariff Offer for Category A products amounting to 90.2 per cent (5,129 tariff lines out of the total 5,688 lines) to be liberalised in 10 years after the start of trading under AfCFTA.

This makes the region meet the minimum requirements for Category A to start trading on a provisional basis under AfCFTA. The EAC is negotiating the AfCFTA as a bloc.

EAC member states have also asked the secretariat to consider categories B and C of the EAC Tariff Offer. Tariff offers ARE now subjected to verification by the AfCFTA Secretariat, based in Accra, Ghana.

The AfCFTA has so far verified 29 tariff offers to ensure that they meet the modalities and this will increase to 34 once the EAC Partner States offers are verified. 

Speaking at the forum, EAC secretary general Peter Mathuki said the implementation of AfCFTA will lead to an increase in Africa's income by $450 billion by 2035. 

"We, therefore, need to carry out massive awareness on trade opportunities, operationalise instruments and finalise on rules of origin,'' Mathuki.

He called on the private sector to use innovation, intellectual property rights, quality, originality and branding to promote clustering so as to develop capabilities to meet the demand for products in the continent and beyond. 

He regretted that despite the region's immense trade potential,  Africa‚Äôs share of the total global trade remains low at 2.8 percent. In addition, the share of intra-African trade has been limited at 18 per cent.

About 100 exhibitors from Africa and beyond are participating in the forum expected to be attended by President William Ruto and other heads of state on Wednesday.

The three-day forum is themed: Public-Private Sector Engagement for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development while Deepening Regional and Continental Trade and Investment towards Implementation of AfCFTA.

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