The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement could be in force by mid-2019, given the current pace of ratification, according to trade experts. Rwanda’s department of trade and industry recently held the 2nd ordinary session of the specialised technical committee of the African ministers of trade, industry and mineral resources to discuss the agreement.
The meeting was themed ‘The Entry into Force of the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and its Implementation’.
The objective was to consider draft continental strategies, including the African Union Commodity Strategy, Africa Union Small and Medium Enterprises Strategy and Trade Facilitation Strategy.
The meeting also took note of the various technical reports and presentations in trade, customs, industry and minerals, according to reports by news agencies.
Once established, AfCFTA will bring together 55 countries, availing a market of 1.2 billion people with a gross domestic product of about $3.5 trillion.
It is also expected to drive the transition from low productivity and labour-intensive activities to higher productivity and skill-intensive industrial and service activities across the continent.
The meeting was attended by member states, regional economic communities, experts from the Afreximbank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
AfCFTA, launched in March 2018 in Kigali, requires 22 ratifications for entry into force. The total number of ratifications now stands at 18, Rwanda’s commissioner for trade and industry Albert Muchanga said.