The Economic Commission for Africa has said that the entire continent stands to gain much more from AfCFTA than it benefits from other trading arrangements with regions outside the continent.
The statements were made during a policy dialogue to discuss the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and assess the country’s readiness to tap into the agreement’s potential.
The Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN) of Rwanda in partnership with UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Rwanda Ministry of Trade and Industry were part of the stakeholders at the dialogue.
Andrew Mold, Officer-in-Charge of ECA in Eastern Africa said that Africa stands to gain much more from AfCFTA than it benefits from other trading arrangements with regions outside the continent.
He noted that the ECA has estimated that if fully implemented, the AfCFTA could double the amount of intra-African trade.
Mr Mold explained that despite having been granted preferential market access to high-income markets for many decades now most countries on the continent are still import-dependent and export excessive amounts of unprocessed commodities, and, as a consequence, run up large trade deficits.
“Large trade deficits slow down the pace of economic growth and development”, he said. “We clearly need a new approach to tackle these problems – the implementation of the AfCFTA is that approach,” Mold said.
“We are talking about 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $2.2 trillion, so it’s a huge market”, said Michel Sebera, Permanent Secretary in Rwanda’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Sebera added that in order to tap into AfCFTA, Rwanda has first to enhance its industrial development, add value to its primary commodities and boost its service sector.
Experts at the meeting were pleased that Rwanda was among the first countries to ratify the agreement, which means that the country has undertaken all required legislative measures in readiness to implement the agreement.
The continental-wide agreement will enter into force after 22 ratifications.
“The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a framework between African Union member states, aimed at creating a single market with seamless cross-border trade and at increasing intra-Africa trade” said Charles Ruhara, Legal Representative of EPRN-Rwanda