African Free Trade Zone - Cameroon Fine-Tunes Implementation Strategy

A workshop to solicit the views of the private sector towards finalizing the strategy took place in Douala recently.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in partnership with Cameroon organized a workshop in Douala on Monday November 11, 2019 to collect the views of the private sector towards finalizing the country's strategy in the implementation of the African free trade zone. Speaking during the opening ceremony, the Economic Affairs Officer, Mamadou Malick Bal, said the continental free trade zone has benefits and disadvantages hence the strategy is to maximize the benefits as well as minimize the adverse effects. "We are out to help Cameroon make the most profit out of the continental free trade zone as Africa is now one big market" he said. He said for this to happen there must be an institutional framework, put in place a system of monitoring and evaluation. According to Olomo Ateke Engelbert, the head of the economic policy unit of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development; Cameroon is among the first countries to ratify the free trade treaty and solicited technical and financial assistance from the UNECA in drawing up a strategy towards its implementation. The Douala meeting is therefore in prelude to a greater meeting to take place in Yaounde at the end of the month to finalize the strategy taking into consideration the views of the public and private sectors alike. He said the African continental free trade zone will lead to a diversification of the economy not only in terms of products but also in terms of business partners. He said African countries have been used to trading with European countries more than other African countries and that the free trade zone will lead to increased intra-African trade and create a new vista of opportunities for business. It is worthy to note that the African continental free trade zone was adopted by the 10th extra ordinary conference of heads of State of the African union in Kigali in March 2018. 27 countries have so far deposited their documents of the ratification including Cameroon. Since April Cameroon has embarked on a process of drawing up a strategy towards the implantation of the free trade accord. It is this process that will be finalized in a meeting in Yaounde on November 27 and 28. There have been several sensitization campaigns jointly carried out by MINCOMMERCE and MINEPAT. The Douala meeting comprised presentations, work in groups and a plenary with the final recommendations forwarded to Yaounde for inclusion in the final strategy.

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