Africa: Continental Free Trade Area - Stakeholders Examine Modus Operandi

A two-day national awareness and information workshop on the free intraAfrican trade area opened in Yaounde, Tuesday April 16, 2019

Stakeholders from the public administration, private sector, academia and civil society gathered in Yaounde on Tuesday April 16, for a two-day awareness and sensitization workshop as Cameroon works towards drawing up its national strategy to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The consultation, jointly organized by the government of Cameroon and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), was officially opened by the Minister of Trade, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana.

Addressing over 100 participants, Minister Luc Magloire noted that it is important for all stakeholders to understand the importance of AfCFTA to the Cameroonian economy while also addressing the challenges, risks and oppor tunities it represents for local stakeholders."The actions you plan to do in Cameroon are timely and very relevant for our own policy objectives,"Luc Magloire said.

He disclosed Cameroon was amongst the first countries that signed up to the agreement and is in the process of ratifying it. Officials said the workshop seeks to address issues relating to Cameroon's current state of preparedness for the entry into force of the AfCFTA as well as possible spinoffs and fallouts for the subregion, particularly with regard to the effective harmonization of ECCAS and CEMAC preferential tariffs.

Cameroon's preparation for the second round of the AfCFTA negotiations is under focus, with particular emphasis on competition issues, intellectual property and investment. According to the Director of the Sub-regional Office for Central Africa of ECA, Antonio Pedro, "Cameroon's AfCFTA strategy would have to be aligned with the broader development blueprints of the country and should contribute to the emergence of credible regional value chains as well as support intra-Central Africa's trade in intermediate and manufactured products."

It should be noted that the consultation is taking place a few days after the threshold of 22 ratifications, the minimum necessary for the AfCFTA to roll into play, was reached on April 2. ECA says countries party to the AfCFTA Agreement, commit to eliminate tariffs on 90 per cent of the goods they produce destined for other African markets.

In this context, intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3 per cent by 2020 and attract to Cameroon, a large flow of investments and opportunities, especially for certain products such as coffee, tea, banana, pepper, refined oils, soap, brewery products, cement, as well as other manufactured and semi-finished goods. AfCFTA represents a potential market of 1.2 billion consumers today, and nearly 2.5 billion in 2050.

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