‘Reciprocity to determine tariff concessions under AfCFTA’
• As AU urges members to start trading under new treaty
The African Union (AU) has stated that the principle of reciprocity would define the exchange of tariff concessions between state parties under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Besides, the African Union Heads of State and Government has underscored the urgent need for member states to kick-start trading activities under the trade deal.
The body said this during a virtual meeting of the 13th Extra-Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on the AfCFTA, held under the President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the Union, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said: “Today, we stand on the cusp of a new era in the progress of our continent. The moment that we have all been working painstakingly towards has finally arrived…We are all filled with a great sense of pride at how far we have come to reach this moment.”
The AU chairperson recalled the collective journey embarked upon over four decades ago with the adoption of the Monrovia Strategy in 1979, followed by the Lagos Plan of Action in 1980, the Abuja Treaty in 1991 and the subsequent declarations on Africa’s integration adopted during previous summits.
“And now, we are about to witness the realisation of one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063,” stated the chairperson of the Union, with great relief.
“Throughout this process, we have stood united, with 55 sovereign AU member states rallying together, despite different levels of economic development and diverse strategic priorities. The commencement of trading under the AfCFTA on the 1st of January 2021 is one of the most significant milestones in the continental integration project”, he noted.
He underlined that this is going to be the clearest affirmation that Africa is determined to take charge of its destiny and that its success and development is fundamentally tied to harnessing the potential and energies of its citizens.
According to President Cyrl Ramaphosa, the AfCFTA will boost intra-African trade, promote industrialisation and competitiveness and contribute to job creation, and it will unleash regional value chains that will facilitate Africa’s meaningful integration into the global economy.
He added that AfCFTA will also improve the prospects of Africa as an attractive investment destination, while helping to advance the empowerment of Africa’s women, by improving women’s access to trade opportunities which will, in turn, facilitate economic freedom for women, and expand the productive capacity of countries.
“To support this, we must strengthen women’s participation in the continental economy by ensuring there is greater public procurement earmarked for women-owned businesses. We must ensure that there is sufficient support given to women-owned SMMEs and cooperatives in both local and regional economies” Emphasised Chairperson Ramaphosa.
Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on his part, expressed satisfaction on the millstone achieved in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
He said it is the fulfillment of the dream long aspired by the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), who have always wanted to create an African common market.
Moussa Faki noted that, for this dream to finally become a reality, this continental project had to go through several stages.
“First was the signing in 1991 of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, followed by the signing in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, of the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA, during which 44 countries signed the Agreement, and it is with great satisfaction that in record time 34 countries have ratified the legal instrument on the AfCFTA”, This, the AUC Chairperson said, shows the determination by a member state to quickly achieve the economic integration of the continent.
Speaking from the headquarters of the AfCFTA Secretariat in Accra, Ghana, the Secretary-General of AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene stressed that integrating 55 markets will not be easy but giving up is not an option.