Visit By African Continental FreeTrade Area Secretary General

Caption: AfCFTA Secretary General H. E. Wamkele Keabetswe Mene and Principal Secretary, State Department for Trade and Enterprise Development Amb. Johnson Weru jointly address media on Kenya's implementation of the Agreement.

This press release issued by the Principal Secretary, State Department for Trade and Enterprise Development and His Excellency, the Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), H.E Mr. Wamkele Keabetswe MENE, is to confirm that Africa has commenced trading under the AfCFTA. Actual consignments are being shipped under the new regime of the AfCFTA. The positive response from economic operators has been immediate and very much welcome.

In his meeting with the Private Sector, at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi, the Secretary General expressed his appreciation to His Excellency Uhuru KENYATTA – President of the Republic of Kenya and the people of Kenya for the support that has been extended to the AfCFTA Secretariat. He mentioned that Kenya was the first African Union Member State to ratify the AfCFTA showing the importance that the Kenyan Government places on trading in the Continent.

He challenged the Kenyan business community to take up opportunities under the African Continental Free Trade Area and prepare to make the first transaction to trade in the Continent considering that Kenya is a founder member of the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade.

1 January 2021 became a historic day for the African Continent and its diaspora. On that day, Africa took a step closer to a vision of an integrated continent – where intra-Africa trade is encouraged and there is greater integration and development of the continent. The occasion was marked by a colourful virtual ceremony. Statements made by Heads of State and Government and Heads of Institutions confirmed readiness to trade and expressed great optimism. They presented to the world a modern, comprehensive, transformative, inclusive, technology-driven and digital AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA marks an important milestone in Africa’s long and spirited history of regional integration, which dates back, at least, to the Abuja Treaty of 1991 that established the African Economic Community (AEC). The aim of the AEC is to promote economic, social and cultural development as well as African economic integration.

The AfCFTA Agreement was signed at the 10th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Summit in Kigali – Rwanda in March 2018, and entered into force on 30 May 2019 following the deposit of the twenty-second (22nd) instrument of ratification of the Agreement. 

Negotiations for the AfCFTA were launched on 15 June 2015 and concluded on 21 March 2018 when the Agreement was opened for signature. 44 Member States signed the Agreement on the spot that day. As at today, 54 of 55 African countries are signatories to the AfCFTA Agreement; and 35 countries are also State Parties by virtue of their deposit of instruments of ratification. 

On Trade in Goods, African countries have collectively undertaken commitments to liberalise substantially all trade by eliminating tariffs on 97 percent of tariff lines – over a specified period of time. The remaining 3 percent of the tariff lines – in fact the Exclusion List – are those products on which no reduction in tariffs would be proposed. The AfCFTA Secretariat is currently in receipt of 41 tariff offers/concessions, representing 75 percent of African Union membership.

On trade in services, the African Union Summit approved five (5) priority services sectors, (Business Services, Communication Services, Financial Services, Tourism and Travel-related Services and Transport Services) including their subsectors. The negotiations are proceeding on the basis of progressive liberalization that combines World Trade Organisation (WTO)-type of scheduling of specific commitments, on the one hand, with regulatory cooperation frameworks, on the other hand, in a mixed approach that is expected to ensure that State Parties effectively implement the opening up of economies to facilitate trade. The AfCFTA Secretariat is currently in receipt of 34 initial offers and a number of requests from State Parties. 

The high momentum around the negotiation and ratification of the AfCFTA and the commencement of trading, all in just five and half years, shows strong political ownership and can be considered admirable and exemplary in light of the much longer durations for negotiating trade Agreements around the world. Apart from the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the AfCFTA is the first Agreement to quickly enter into force in the history of the African Union, showing the need for trading that has been identified in the Continent and emphasizing on the political will of African Union Member States.

Africa will continue to deepen and broaden its economic integration programmes for progressively creating a single market. In December 2020, the 13th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Assembly directed that all outstanding issues on Phase I issues – Trade in Goods and Trade in Services – be completed by June 2021. Negotiations in the additional areas of investment, competition, intellectual property, e-commerce and women in trade are also expected to be completed in accordance with the timelines set by the Heads of State and Government. 

While concluding, the Principal Secretary noted that the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference (MC 12) in Kazakhstan was coming at a time that AfCFTA had launched its start of trading and expressed optimism that it would go a long way to promote free trade by lowering tariffs and barriers such as those being eliminated by the AfCFTA. He said that the process of picking the Director General should be concluded to commence preparations for MC12.
The AfCFTA must work for the 1.2 Billion Africans as it is for all of us! END


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