Private sector actors were on Thursday, January 19, taken through the different frameworks governing the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) and requirements to start trading across the countries. ALSO READ: Private sector urged to expand market under AfCFTA trading This was during a private sector workshop organized by the East African Business Council (EABC) aimed at furthering the engagement and bringing on board the primary implementers of the continental agreement. The workshop looked at different protocols put in place to facilitate the Trade in Goods and Services, a number certificates required, and steps taken in harmonization of standards across Africa, among others. Denis Karera, Vice Chairperson of EABC, observed that the private sector does not understand the practicality of trading under the continental free trade area, yet they are the actual implementers of the agreement. “It is extremely important for the private sector to understand what it takes for the free movement of goods and services across the continent. For one businesswoman at Rusumo border who has harvested bananas to know how and which market she can take them to,” he explained. However, he added that there could be entrenched multiple challenges that the private sector players should prepare to confront as a result of pre-existing inequalities and differences in African economies throughout the implementation of the AfCFTA. While some consignments of coffee and tea were exported to Ghana under the pilot phase of the AfCFTA initiative on Guided Trade, the potential of such expanded markets is yet to be grasped by traders. ALSO READ: Packaging remains a hindrance for local products – Rwanda’s AfCFTA trade pioneer Tracy Kamikazi, an executive assistant and legal advisor at MFK Group Ltd, a group holding investments in a number of companies in diverse economic sectors, said that the agreement presents significant opportunities but more awareness is needed. “With the market being open for us to invest in different countries benefits us in terms of expansion and increased income. However, we need more sensitization and assurance that it is actually happening and will benefit us,” she added. The need for awareness was also raised by Michel Habumugisha, President of the association of leather producers in Rwanda, indicating that it was his first time being informed about the AfCFTA. For a sector that is challenged with competitiveness of raw products on market, he said this will create an opportunity to access an even bigger market at low or no taxes, hence, improving on quality and value of products. Priority sectors for trading under AfCFTA include agro-processing, agriculture, textile, pharmaceuticals, automotive industry, finance, tourism, transport, communications, among others. ALSO READ: AfCFTA: What are Rwanda’s export-ready products? According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the agreement could drive up intra-Africa trade by about 52 per cent. Antoine Kajangwe, Director General of Trade and Investment in the Ministry of Trade, told entrepreneurs that policies of trade facilitation have been put in place and it’s up to them to drive the integration. “We will keep on monitoring the processes and encourage traders to report to authorities any inconvenience they meet while trading across the countries where Non-Tariff Barriers are existing. It is from there that as policymakers, we can engage each other to eliminate them,” he indicated. The landmark agreement, signed in Kigali in March 2018, envisions a continental market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined Gross Domestic Product of more than $3.4 trillion.