Policymakers and business leaders from across Africa, and representatives of Regional Economic Communities on the continent Monday started a two-day policy dialogue in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to map out a strategy for the successful implementation of the of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The dialogue is co-organised by the AU and the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), a development platform for discussions and reflections.
Participants are expected to map out a strategy for implementation of the trade agreement and set the pace for Africa’s aspirations outlined in Agenda 2063.
Agenda 2063 is Africa's blueprint for transforming the continent into the global powerhouse.
The first session on Monday was opened by the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, the Chairperson of the CoDA Board of Directors.
The session looked into key elements required to establish an efficient and active continental free trade area, beyond tariff liberalisation.
Expected outputs include identification and prioritisation of recommendations to remove non-tariff barriers as well as address trade-related infrastructure constraints.
The AfCFTA was first signed by African leaders on March 21, 2018 in Kigali and 23 countries have since ratified the deal with up to 52 of the 55 AU member states signatories.
Benin, Eritrea and Nigeria are the only countries that have not yet signed the agreement establishing the AfCFTA.
Only 22 ratifications were needed for the agreement to go into force.
Among other benefits, experts project that the AfCFTA will increase intra-African trade by over 50 per cent and boost the continent’s GDP by more than $40 billion.
At the 31st Ordinary Summit of the AU Heads of State and Government held last July in Nouakchott, Mauritania, the Assembly committed to undertake broad-based national awareness campaigns so that all stakeholders, such as ordinary citizens and business people across Africa, embrace the AfCFTA.
The Summit also mandated the AU Commission to organise a civil society forum and a private sector forum preceding the upcoming July 2019 Summit in Niamey, Niger in order to enhance stakeholder engagement on the implementation of the AfCFTA.