Kigali — When the African Continental Free Trade Area is implemented, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) estimates an increase of intra-African exports of Eastern Africa by over US$ 1 billion. For Rwanda, much of that would be explained by increased trade with its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Friday 21st June, in collaboration with ECA and Trademark East Africa, Rwanda's Private Sector Federation (PSF) organized a meeting to discuss the potential benefits from the AfCFTA and how Rwandan companies could take advantage of the new opportunities.
Andrew Mold, Acting Director of ECA in Eastern Africa, revealed preliminary simulation results showing that Rwandan exports to DRC would increase by more than USD 56 million, once the AfCFTA was fully implemented. At a regional level, he stressed that the beneficiary sectors would principally be the employment-creating sectors like processed foods, light manufacturing and textiles, creating an additional two million jobs in Eastern Africa.
Stephen Ruzibiza, the Chief Executive Officer of PSF, encouraged business owners and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the potential 1.2 billion customers and work together as they identify their future areas of growth. "Collectively, we have enormous potential to tap into this continental market," he said.
The participants also discussed how AfCFTA can provide a platform for a common approach to African trade relations with other countries. According to Mold, Africa currently has 512 Bilateral Investment Treaties with other countries, of which 44 are Intra- African. Each one of these has different terms and conditions and often are formulated in a way that defends the interests of high-income countries.
"That is a problem because there is a lack of coherence between many of the existing Bilateral Investment Treaties" explains Andrew. "The AfCFTA Protocol of Investment talks about harmonizing investment treaties across the continent to have a unified approach.
Another big advantage of the single marked is related to Competition Policy. Mold explained how both consumers and businesses will potentially benefit from this, giving an example of how over-charging on intra-African roaming services could be addressed by the Competition Protocol under the AfCFTA.
The meeting was attended by more than 120 business leaders, together with government representatives.