Africa to Commence Trading Under Free Trade Pact in July 2020

Trucks loaded with goods queue up for clearance at a Uganda-South Sudan border post.

The African Continental Free Trade was launched yesterday at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Niamey, Niger.

President Paul Kagame described the launch of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area as a significant milestone for the continent and the African Union.

President Kagame said Rwanda was in full agreement of the report by Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou on the way forward on the agreement.

Among the proposals in the report include catering for the interest of small-to-medium cross-border traders by simplifying trade regimes applicable to them.

"We particularly concur on two points. One, the need to cater for small-to-medium cross-border traders, by simplifying trade regimes applicable to them," he said.

Kagame also endorsed the decision to commence trading under the AfCFTA on July 1, 2020.

At the summit, the Executive Council designated Ghana as the choice to host the AfCFTA Secretariat.

"I agree with the proposal of the Executive Council designating Ghana as our choice to host the AfCFTA Secretariat. I congratulate them as well," Kagame said.

Following the launch of the agreement and in the build-up to implementation, Kagame called on stakeholders to finalise remaining negotiations and operational instruments.

"Our task now is to finalise the remaining negotiations and operational instruments in a timely manner," he said.

Among the ongoing negotiations includes Rules of Origin which will determine the eligibility of goods to be traded under CFTA as well as modalities such as protection of infant industries.

At the summit, a number of instruments to facilitate the implementation of the agreement were launched including; AfCFTA rules of origin, AfCFTA Trade in goods dashboard, Pan-African payments and settlements system and Dashboard of the AU Trade Observatory.

Participants at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union in Niamey, yesterday. / Village Urugwiro

The summit also launched an online mechanism for monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers and AfCFTA mobile application for businesses.

Two more countries, Nigeria and Benin also signed the AfCFTA agreement, bringing the number of signatories to 54 out of 55 AU Member states. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea also deposited their instruments of ratification, bringing the number of countries which have ratified the agreement to 27.

The implementation of the Agreement will among other things see Rwanda gain access to a larger African market on ideal terms by exporting and importing duty-free from more African countries, e.g. ECOWAS countries.

With Rwanda pushing to increase local production through the Made in Rwanda initiative, the agreement presents a huge opportunity for Rwanda to access a market of 1.2bn people

Studies estimate that reducing intra-African tariffs under AfCFTA could bring $3.6 billion additional income to the continent through a boost in production and cheaper goods

Rwanda's private sector has also been given a platform to showcase its products, attract investments and financing during the Intra-African Trade Fair which will take place in Kigali from 1-7 September 2020.

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