Africa: Malawi to Host AfCFTA Sensitization Workshop

Lilongwe — Malawi will this month (September) host a sensitization workshop that will bring together all trade stakeholders as it pushes to have the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement ratified.

The workshop, slated for September 17 (2019) in Lilongwe, is aimed at raising awareness on the pros and cons of the treaty with the hope of clearing issues that have delayed the ratification process.

According to Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Spokesperson, Mayeso Msokera, critical aspects of the AfCFTA Agreement are still outstanding.

She cited Rules of Origin under the Protocol on Trade and Negotiations being in progress as parties develop and submit their lists of product-specific rules of origin.

"Malawi wants to ratify AfCFTA when critical aspects such as those indicated above are negotiated and this will allow us to submit complete sets of documents according to our legal procedures.

"The private sector needs to be oriented on the pros and cons. So, we have lined up sensitization workshops for stakeholders together with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on 17th September to make them understand more.

"From there, we hope the private sector would have understood and let us proceed to ratify the agreement," he said.

Although he could not commit himself on the time for ratification, Msokera said what remains is to get a nod from the private sector after the orientation is done.

"For example, if the private sector recommends that we proceed to ratify, immediately the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism together with Ministry of Justice, would commence putting in place documents for ratification.

"Ratification will be done when we have complete sets of documents since negotiations are not concluded. Once finalized, Malawi will ratify according to our legal procedures required in ratification," Msokera said.

In a recent commentary after AfCFTA achieved the required number of countries for ratification, Director of Trade and Customs at COMESA, Francis Mangeni said even though the process has some outstanding issues, a lot of successes have been registered.

"Rules of origin and tariff negotiations need to be completed. Tariff schedules should be produced. A mechanism for addressing non-tariff barriers is also required. Some Regulations and Guidelines are also needed in areas such as infant industries and export processing zones," he said.

Malawi signed the AfCFTA on March 21, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The agreement entered into force on May 20, 2019 when the threshold of 22 countries from the 54 that signed, ratified the agreement while its operational phase began on July 7, 2019.

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