Niamey — African ministers of trade have hit the milestone objective of concluding the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Agreement within the deadline of December 2017, in accordance with a decision by African Union Heads of State and Government in June 2015.
After two days of intense deliberations at the Fourth Meeting of African Ministers of Trade (AMOT) in Niamey, the ministers, on Saturday 2 December 2017, issued a report stating:
"The Champion of the CFTA, H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou - President of Niger - shall present a substantive report to Heads of State and Government during the next Summit in January 2018. The Champion shall inform Heads of State that the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area together with the Protocol on Trade in Services had been concluded and would request his peers to convene in an Extra-Ordinary Summit in March 2018 to adopt and sign the CFTA Agreement, its Protocols, and Annexes."
In an interview at the end of the AMOT meeting, Albert M. Muchanga, AUC Commissioner for Trade and Industry, applauded the trade ministers, stating that "the results from Niamey are significant in our journey toward achieving the prosperous and integrated Africa we want by 2063." Our momentum is steady and measured, he added. "Momentum generates energy. Energy generates growth and growth generates prosperity."
David Luke who coordinates the African Trade Policy Centre noted that "the trade ministers are laudably committed to moving this African trade agenda forward. The CFTA deadline has been met. The Protocol on Trade in Services was agreed and adopted."
Mr. Luke explained that the Protocol on Trade in Goods will need more work, principally on the rules of origin and application of the agreed modalities for the liberalization of trade in goods at 85/90 percent of tariff lines, adding "This should be finalized by March 2018 when the AU Heads of State and Government are expected to sign and adopt the CFTA.
Expressing his satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting, Ghana's Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen, said "I leave Niamey with a sense of pride that we came to a substantive conclusion that can feed into the next Heads of State and Government Summit, which was really the objective of this meeting."
Mr. Kyerematen added that the substantive work has been done and that "any outstanding issues will be considered as built-in agenda, and reference has already been made to this effect in the framework agreement that will be signed. So technically speaking, we are where we wanted to be."
Such sentiments were also shared by Marc Yombouno, Minister of Trade of the Republic of Guinea, who stated, "I leave Niamey very satisfied that we got the expected results on the CFTA."
The Guinean minister deplored the fact that Africa "currently registers only about 16% of intra-continental trade meanwhile Europe is around 60%, and Asia records more than 50%." It is therefore imperative, he said, that we create an Africa where persons, goods and services can circulate freely to benefit all Africans.
For her part, Assome Aminata Diatta, Senegal's Director of Foreign Trade said, "I am very pleased with today's decision. The CFTA is absolutely necessary to strengthen Africa's position in the world market. We salute the leadership of our trade ministers who understand the need for intra-Africa trade in the development of this continent.
The trade ministers also agreed on the creation of an autonomous CFTA Secretariat headed by a Director-General or Secretary-General.