9 March 2018

African Trade Ministers Adopt Legal Instruments to Establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (Afcfta)

Kigali — The fifth meeting of African Union Ministers of Trade (AMOT) chaired by the Minister of Trade and Investment of Nigeria, the Honourable Okechukwu Enelamah took place in Kigali on 8-9 March, hosted by the Government of Rwanda. The President of Rwanda is the current Chair of the AU Assembly of Heads of States and Governments.

The meeting adopted the legal instruments constituting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) namely (a) the Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA (b) the Protocol on Trade in Goods (c) the Protocol on Trade in Services and (d) the Protocol on Rules and Procedures for the Settlement of Disputes.

The AMOT meeting also adopted the Transitional Implementation Work Program which includes a built-in agenda for the finalization of some annexes to the Protocol on Trade in Goods and other arrangements for the operationalization of the AfCFTA.

These instruments are to be recommended to the African Union Executive Council for adoption by the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments at the extraordinary Summit that is scheduled to be held in Kigali on 20-21 March to sign the legal instruments and mark the conclusion of the first phase of the AfCFTA negotiations.

The AMOT meeting further considered and approved the Kigali Declaration for the Launch of the AfCFTA for transmission to the African Union Executive Council and adoption by the Assembly of State and Goverments. This is a statement that reaffirms the integrity of the negotiations and the commitment of all AU member states to proceed to the ratification of the legal instruments.

Strong interest has been expressed by some member states to host the AfCFTA Secretariat that will oversee the implementation of the agreements.

Commenting on the outcome of the AMOT meeting, David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre who led ECA's delegation said: "the sceptics have been proved wrong. What has been achieved in the conclusion of the first phase of the AfCFTA negotistions is remarkable. A continent-wide market is being opened for trade and investment. This is a massive game-changer. There will be far-reaching impacts on the business environment, the development and consolidation of supply chains, and the potential to lift millions out of poverty. The AfCFTA will further ensure policy coherence in Africa's trade relations with international partners".

In a special ceremony during the AMOT meeting, the AU Trade and Industry Commissioner, H. E. Albert Muchanga awarded certificates of recognition to the chief negotiator and alternate of each member state. "The negotiators have served Africa well. History will not forget them", Commissioner Muchanga said. The Chairperson of the Trade Negotiating Forum, Mr. Chiedu Osakwe of Nigeria was also recognized in a special note of appreciation.

The second phase of the AfCFTA negotiations which will focus on investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights is slated to commence later this year.

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