Friday, September 22

AfCFTA: Africa start free trade this January

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By Olimatou Coker

The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment has informed that the African Union Commission and its Member States are committed to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) starting from 1st January 202I.

The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union which aims at integrating Africa’s markets in line with the objectives and principles highlighted in the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community. The main objective is to expand and accelerate intra-African trade and increase trade among African countries through the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers as well as harmonization of standards, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, custom cooperation, and border procedures, and other trade-related regulations. The realization of the AfCFTA objectives also requires capacity building and investments in trade-related infrastructure.

To facilitate the liberalization process, several African Union Member States, including The Gambia, have submitted their offers to finalize the development of tariff schedules and schedules of specific commitment as required by the AfCFTA Agreement. The negotiations of these offers are yet to be concluded. However, the AfCFTA State Parties are continuing in their engagements to finalize the preparatory process of operationalizing the Agreement by 1st January 2021. The tariff dismantling process will only be effective once the negotiations of the tariff offers are concluded and the agreed tariff schedules are adopted by the AU Assembly.

A Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) Monitoring Mechanism has been developed by the African Union Commission with focal points in the different member states including The Gambia. A mechanism is an online tool that aims to track and report on NTBs with a view of eliminating them.

“The Gambia continues to be fully committed to the AfCFTA and has put in place several measures in preparation for the implementation of the Agreement in January 2021. The Ministry has developed an AfCFTA National Implementation Strategy, which serves as the national strategic framework for the implementation of the AfCFTA in The Gambia.”

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry Regional integration and Employment has also established a National AfCFTA Implementation Committee, while saying that the Committee is designed to promote high-level political over-sight and coordination of the AfCFTA implementation in The Gambia. The Ministry has also established three Technical Working Groups, (in the areas of Trade-in Goods, Trade in Service and Intellectual Property Rights), to support the ongoing negotiations and assist the government in the implementation of the agreement.

“Through the AfCFTA, the Ministry will embark on a sensitization as defined in the communication strategy to raise awareness of the citizens, particularly the private sector and relevant government institutions, to enhance their understanding of the agreement, its effective implementation and ensure that The Gambia take full advantage of the opportunities under the AfCFTA,” the ministry explained.