AfCTA will lead to a prosperous Africa says AU Commissioner for Trade

By Oluchukwu Ibekwe

The Commissioner for Trade and Industry at the African Union (AU), H. E. Albert MUCHANGA has said that the full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will result in a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and Sustainable Development, in line with the Aspiration 1 of the AU Agenda 2063.

Muchanga stated this on Thursday while presenting a report on the launching and implementation of the AfCFTA at the ongoing Third Ordinary Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) in Midrand, South Africa.

He recalled that in July 2019, the agreement establishing the AfCFTA officially entered into force at Niamey, Niger Republic during the Extra Ordinary Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government. The Summit also approved Ghana as the host of the AfCFTA Secretariat.

“Pursuant to the provisions of Rule 26(3) of the Pan African Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, the Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters has the specific responsibility of introducing issues relating to the development of sound policy for cross border, regional and continental concerns within the area of trade, customs and immigration for consideration by the Chamber and to come up with recommendations on how best to manage the issue of Intra-African trade on the continent. The Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration matters works in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC) Department of Trade and Industry” he said.

Explaining further, Muchanga stated that PAP is expected to play an important role in the implementation of the AfCFTA in several ways. First, it should advocate for the ratification of the AfCFTA by all member States of the AU by December 2019 to enable the actualization of the vision to create a single African market. Secondly, PAP should also advocate for the ratification and domestication of all relevant trade agreements by the AU member states as well as advocate and lobby for the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. Thirdly, PAP should advocate the empowerment of National Portfolio Committees on Trade to effectively carry out their parliamentary oversight and legislative functions and hold the executive accountable on the ratification of trade agreements as well as the implementation of trade facilitation measures.

Concluding, Hon. Muchanga reminded the parliamentarians that the AU has designated July 7 of every year as the Africa Integration day in commemoration of the entry into force of the AfCFTA on July 7, 2019.

In his presentation, the Chairperson the of the PAP Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters, Hon. McHenry VANAANI noted that his Committee had organized workshops and briefings on the AfCFTA and participated in many Forums on trade facilitation in the continent.

Hon. Vanaani recalled that after the AU Decision on the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA and the adoption of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the PAP during its Sixth Ordinary Session of the Fourth Parliament in May, 2018, resolved to initiate advocacy activities to expedite the signature, ratification, domestication and implementation of the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA and the Protocol on to the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment. He also recalled that PAP resolved to work towards the harmonization of Member State’s laws, policies and structures in order to facilitate the implementation of the AfCFTA and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons.

The PAP also adopted a resolution for the establishment of a Parliamentary Forum on Trade, Customs and Immigration “to ensure capacity building, experience, knowledge sharing amongst African members of parliaments on parliamentary monitoring of and oversight over trade agreements and deals.”

The Forum will create an interactive platform for African Parliamentarians to ensure best practices on trade facilitation, working in collaboration with the Speakers/ Presidents and Clerks of African Parliaments as well as promote regional integration, advance the adoption of legislation that facilitate the establishment of One–Stop–Border Posts on the continent and the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.

Concluding, Hon. Vanaani stated that “the intensification of Intra-African trade will contribute to the economic diversification of the African economy, increase the competitiveness of its exports and create employment for the African youth. The strengthening of intra-African trade presupposes an integration programme as a collective strategy of development and transformation which must lead to the establishment of a continental market.”

Contributing to the debate, Hon. Maxas Bweupe NG’ONGA (Zambia) described the coming into force of the AfCFTA as one of the most important decisions made by the AU to move Africa forward noting that we have in the past, been divided due to artificial barriers imposed on us and posited that the AfCFTA will help to dismantle those barriers.

In his contribution, Hon. Joseph Yeleh CHIREH (Ghana) stated that a befitting honour has been bestowed on the foremost Pan Africanist late Dr. Kwame NKRUMAH by the decision to site the Secretariat of the AfCFTA in Ghana noting that the country has been making efforts to sensitize her people on the benefits of hosting the AfCFTA Secretariat.

Also contributing, Hon. Noreddine KARBAL (Morocco) requested for an evaluation of the impact of the AfCFTA on the lives of ordinary Africans and called for the political will to fully implement this historic continental trade agreement. He sought to know how the AfCFTA can be coordinated with the regional economic blocks.

In his contribution, Hon. Dr. Tapiwa MASHAKADA (Zimbabwe) described the trade agreement as the engine room for growth that will boost employment and make sure that Africa will have access to cheaper products. He noted that the agreement will create a single market of 1.8 billion people with more than $3 trillion in GDP. He urged the PAP to play a bigger role in popularizing the AfCFTA and in making national legislatures to equally play their part. Hon. Mashakada maintained that free movement of goods and services cannot succeed without the free movement of persons and urged the ratification of the Protocol on   the Free Movement of Persons.