African Free Trade Zone gains momentum

17 June 2019

The United Nations Economic Commission and the African Development Bank are actively promoting the treaty establishing free trade in Africa, which has been signed by the Portuguese-speaking countries and already validated.

The agreement, which aims to promote the economic emancipation of the continent, by 30 May had been ratified by more than 22 countries, a legal condition for its validation, and will be officially launched at the end of July at the African Union summit in Niamey, in Niger, by the countries that have ratified it.

The signatory countries of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) have agreed to eliminate tariffs, quotas and preferences on goods sold in an estimated 1.2 billion fast-growing market.

In the case of the Portuguese-speaking countries, they signed the treaty, but the national parliaments have not yet ratified it, which has led the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to actively promote the conclusion of the process, according to the ECA regional director for Central Africa, António Pedro, in statements to UN News.

According to Pedro, the ECA is in contact with the authorities of São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola and Cabo Verde, so that the countries can also prepare for the transition.

“It is necessary to do these studies, diagnoses, country by country, to identify their comparative advantages and therefore to create the strategy around that. This is what we are doing for all countries, including (…) Angola and Cabo Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe,” said the head of the ECA.

In Angola, he said, the AU initiative will catalyse the creation of national industries, with the creation of value chains, within the regional and continental context.

“Countries have to determine now the list of products that will fall outside the exemption scheme that is the basis of the free trade area. 10% of products, of which 7% may be on the protected list and 3% completely excluded, that for a certain time may benefit from protection. And it is on these 10% of the list of sensitive and excluded products that many countries want to base their industrialisation policies,” said Pedro.

Currently, inter-African trade is estimated to be between just 16% and 17% of the total. (Macauhub)