The African Continental Free Trade Area is expected to boost regional trade and industrialisation by 50 per cent if implemented in March 2018.
The agreement, which was signed last March in Kigali by 49 countries, has only been ratified by 12 countries and is seeking 22 more countries in order to go into force and subsequently unleash the potential of the region.
Analysis by United Nations Economic Commission of Africa notes that smaller countries will get the largest increase in intra-African exports – up to 68 per cent.
Andrew Mold, Ag Director of the UNECA in Eastern Africa says that the AfCFTA will enable the regional states increase their exports of manufactured goods across Africa.
“Currently East African countries are trading amongst themselves at only half their potential, and the growing local demand is met by imports from outside the continent rather than by local production,” he said during the UNECA’s annual meeting held in Kigali to deliberate on the implementation of the AfCFTA.
David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre at UNECA insists: “The more ambitious the liberalisation, the higher will be the gains in terms of increase in GDP and exports. However, we still need to win the hearts and minds of the private sector and civil society, who will be the true implementers of the AfCFTA.”
Rwanda’s Finance Minister Uzziel Ndagijimana called on Africa to speedily ratify the continental free trade agreement as it is very crucial to Africa’s inclusive growth and prosperity.
“The AfCFTA represented a remarkable degree of consensus across the continent, but this is not enough – we need ratifications to move forward. Our efforts will come to nothing if we do not achieve 22 ratifications by March next year,” she added.